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What is an Interferon?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An interferon is a protein produced by the body's immune system in response to an infection. Interferons are part of a larger group of proteins known as cytokines, and they are made by cells such as leukocytes, T-cells, and fibroblasts. In addition to being made naturally in the body, interferon can also be produced in laboratories for the purpose of medical treatment, and several pharmaceutical companies have versions of this drug on the market.

There are three types of interferon: Type I, Type II, and Type III. These types are divided by the types of cells they interact with, how they are produced, and what they do. Type I includes subclassifications known as alpha, beta, kappa, delta, epsilon, tau, omega, and zeta. The Type II category includes interferon-gamma, made by the T-cells, while the Type III category consists of several versions of interferon-lambda. The Type III classification is not accepted by all members of the medical community.

When the body detects the signs of a viral intrusion or infection, it can trigger the production of interferons. The proteins can stimulate the production of specific proteins, inhibiting viral replication inside the cells of the body and making the body more resistant to the virus. The body only makes these proteins when they are needed, because they can interfere with normal activities such as the production of red blood cells. Other animals also produce cytokines in response to infections and viral incursions, although these proteins vary from animal to animal.

In medical therapy, interferons are sometimes administered to boost the function of the immune systems. Injections of the protein are used in the treatment of some cancers so that the body can fight the atypical cells characteristic of the cancer more effectively, and these proteins are also used in the treatment of conditions such as hepatitis C. Interferon treatment can be grueling for patients, and they generally experience symptoms such as nausea, irritability, and fatigue.

Additional types of this protein are constantly being discovered, and researchers are always learning new things about the functions of these proteins in the body. Additional research has revealed a range of potential therapeutic uses, and it has also helped the medical community understand how the immune system works, and what can cause it to break down. In addition to being approved for a range of medical treatments, these proteins are sometimes administered in off-label situations to treat conditions which appear to respond to interferon.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1002110 — On Sep 08, 2019

How it works: A natural product (it might even be a weed) is used for years to heal people. They don’t want people healed; they want them paying for more medicine that only controls (if that) disease, but takes your hard earned money.

They make the original product illegal, or ban any information on what it can do, so you are stuck with their product that does not heal but keeps you in a vicious cycle. They make you afraid of the original product.

There will always be the select few that know the secret and spread the truth. Then they quadruple the price and eventually make it legal. This was done with marijuana and many other products. One of them was Interferon.

I have gone to health food stores for many, many years. I used to walk in and ask what they had that was new. They knew me quite well so they told me. One week the new thing was Interferon. So I bought a bottle. I took it and the warts between my legs that I'd had burned off, cut off and frozen off, but had kept coming back, just disappeared. One had spread to my husband, so I went back to get a bottle for him. I was informed the government had taken it off the market. Then people started getting treated for it at hospitals and it now costs thousands of dollars for a single treatment. True story.

By anon990619 — On Apr 30, 2015

Interferons are produced from the killing of young black boys in Africa, as are many of the drugs related to melanin/melatonin taken from the bodies of black people killed in so called "civil wars" in Africa, wars that are sponsored or induced by Western governments for their drug making companies.

Many people are so conditioned to the horrors of this world that these things go unnoticed by the world, especially as they are not going to tell us about it. But anything kept secret always gets revealed.

By wavy58 — On Jun 25, 2011

@shell4life - My cousin also was being treated with interferons for cancer. She got very depressed and irritable. Being around her really challenged my patience! She also had trouble sleeping and eventually developed tremors and memory loss. She could not even remember things I had just told her!

She got so bad that she started to tell me about her suicidal thoughts. Her mood would shift dramatically from her being so happy that I was there with her to wanting to take a bunch of pills and end it all. Her doctor put her on an antidepressant to prevent her from doing this.

Though the side effects of the treatment were life-threatening in themselves, I am glad she was treated with interferons, because it worked. Today, she is cancer-free and back to normal.

By shell4life — On Jun 22, 2011

@lighth0se33 - My brother has melanoma. Interferons in high doses are the only treatment available for melanoma patients who have a high risk of recurrence post-surgery. Sadly, the side effects are terrible.

When he first started treatment, he got flu-like symptoms. His body grew tolerant to these after awhile, and he learned that taking acetaminophen, naproxin, and anti-vomiting drugs prior to injection reduced the symptom’s severity.

He experienced fatigue that intensified as treatment continued. He could hardly get out of bed some days. He lost weight because he felt full very soon after beginning to eat. He combated this by taking vitamins and supplements and eating small meals frequently.

By StarJo — On Jun 22, 2011

@lighth0se33 - My aunt also has melanoma, and she is being treated with interferons. We got online and studied interferon treatment before she started it. Interferons also are used to treat hairy cell leukemia, follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma, which is associated with AIDS.

Other diseases that interferons can treat include multiple sclerosis and chronic granulomatous disease.

I hope I have been of some help to you!

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 20, 2011

Does anyone know what types of cancer are best treated with interferons? My great-aunt has melanoma, and I wondered if interferon treatment would work for her.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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