Alferon may protect against H5N1-induced pulmonary damage

Hemispherx Biopharma, a Philadelphia-based specialty pharmaceutical company, announced on Wednesday that a recent study demonstrated that a low oral dose of the company's Alferon treatment protected against H5N1 influenza-induced pulmonary damage.

In a study presented on Tuesday at the Keystone Symposia Conference on Pathogenesis of Respiratory Viruses, William Mitchell of Vanderbilt University and his colleagues found a dose-dependent sparing of H5N1-induced pulmonary damage in a non-human primate model.

H5N1 infection is associated with a high mortality rate of approximately 60 percent because of an alveolar destructive primary viral pneumonia that is clinically expressed as acute respiratory distress syndrome. The study was meant to determine the potential for prophylactic mitigation of the pulmonary damage characteristic of fatal H5N1 cases using Hemispherx's low oral dose Alferon.

The low oral dose version of Alferon, which is a commercially available parenteral natural human interferon alpha treatment in its injection form, was able to spare the subjects from the H5N1-induced pulmonary damage. A prior study found the deadly H7N9 influenza virus was also susceptible to Alferon treatment.

While low dose oral Alferon is experimental in nature and is not yet designated safe and effective by a regulatory authority for general use, it may become part of an effort to mitigate the global threat of an influenza pandemic emerging from avian H5N1 and H7N9 flu viruses.