Discovered in 1957 and named after their ability to interfere with viral replication, interferons are cellular glycoproteins with numerous biologic activities.16 In 1981, the first recombinant DNA-derived interferon was successfully expressed in bacteria and purified in large quantities for clinical study.1617 The naturally occurring proteins have since been found to possess antiviral, antiproliferative, and immunomodulating properties.18

There are five major species of interferon: alpha, beta, gamma, omega, and tau.19 Three of these (alpha, beta, and gamma) have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a total of 11 disease states (Table 102.2).

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