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Interferon-α in Patients with Asymptomatic Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial

H. Clifford Lane, MD; Victoria Davey, MPH; Joseph A. Kovacs, MD; Judith Feinberg, MD; Julia A. Metcalf, BA; Betsey Herpin, MSN; Robert Walker, MD; Lawrence Deyton, MD; Richard T. Davey Jr., MD; Judith Falloon, MD; Michael A. Polis, MD, MPH; Norman P. Salzman, PhD; Michael Baseler, PhD; Henry Masur, MD; and Anthony S. Fauci, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant Support: In part by Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services under contract number NO1-CO-74102.

Requests for Reprints: H. Clifford Lane, MD, Laboratory of Immunoregulation, NIAID, National Institutes of Health, Building 10, Room 11B13, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Lane and Davey and Ms. Davey, Metcalf, and Herpin: NIAID, National Institutes of Health, Building 10, Room 11B13, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.

Drs. Kovacs, Polis, Falloon, and Masur: Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Building 10, Room 10D48, Bethesda, MD 20892.

Dr. Feinberg: Division of AIDS, Treatment Program, NIAID, National Institutes of Health, Room 203P, 6003 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852.

Dr. Walker: Cardiovascular-Pulmonary Division, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Dr. Deyton: AIDS Program, National Institutes of Health, Control Data Building, Room 251P, 6003 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852.

Dr. Baseler: National Cancer Institute-Frederick Cancer Research Facility, P.O. Box B, Building 469, Frederick, MD 21701.

Dr. Salzman: Georgetown University Medical Center, Department of Microbiology, Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Room LM12, Preclinical Science Building, 3900 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007.

Dr. Fauci: NIAID, National Institutes of Health, Building 31, Room 7A03, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Ann Intern Med. 1990;112(11):805-811. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-112-11-805
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Study Objective: To evaluate the toxicity and clinical efficacy of interferon-α2b (IFN-α) in patients with asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Design: Randomized, placebo-controlled, and double-blind study.

Setting: Outpatient clinic of a government referral-based research hospital.

Patients: Volunteer sample of 34 patients with asymptomatic HIV infection who had CD4 counts of 400 cells/mm3 or more, positive peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures for HIV, or p24 antigenemia.

Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to receive either IFN-α or placebo, 35 x 106 units per day subcutaneously. Doses of IFN-α or placebo were modified according to predefined laboratory and clinical criteria. Therapy lasted at least 12 weeks.

Measurements and Main Results: Seventeen patients were randomly assigned to each group. The two groups had similar mean CD4 counts at study entry. Thirty-five percent of patients assigned to receive IFN-α withdrew from the study because of toxicity. The average daily dose of IFN-α was 17.5 x 106 units. All patients receiving IFN-α reported flu-like symptoms; other toxicities included granulocytopenia (55%) and elevated liver enzyme levels (45%). While receiving IFN-α, 7 patients (41%) became HIV culture negative (three or more consecutive negative peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures taken at least 2 weeks apart). In contrast, 2 patients in the placebo group (13%) became culture negative while on study (P = 0.05). During the treatment period, CD4 lymphocyte percentages were sustained at or above the baseline level in patients receiving IFN-α and declined slightly in patients receiving placebo. Of the 32 study patients followed after study (range, 5 to 33 months), no patients in the IFN-α group developed an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-defining opportunistic infection, compared with 5 patients in the placebo group (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Treatment of early-stage HIV infection with IFN-α can result in a decrease in frequency of viral isolation. Although its use may be accompanied by dose-dependent toxicities, IFN-α may have a role in slowing progression of HIV disease.

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