The effect of inhaled IFN-β on worsening of asthma symptoms caused by viral infections. A randomized trial.
Djukanović R., Harrison T., Johnston SL., Gabbay F., Wark P., Thomson NC., Niven R., Singh D., Reddel HK., Davies DE., Marsden R., Boxall C., Dudley S., Plagnol V., Holgate ST., Monk P., INTERCIA Study Group None.
RATIONALE: Ex vivo, bronchial epithelial cells from people with asthma are more susceptible to rhinovirus infection caused by deficient induction of the antiviral protein, IFN-β. Exogenous IFN-β restores antiviral activity. OBJECTIVES: To compare the efficacy and safety of inhaled IFN-β with placebo administered to people with asthma after onset of cold symptoms to prevent or attenuate asthma symptoms caused by respiratory viruses. METHODS: A total of 147 people with asthma on inhaled corticosteroids (British Thoracic Society Steps 2-5), with a history of virus-associated exacerbations, were randomized to 14-day treatment with inhaled IFN-β (n = 72) or placebo (n = 75) within 24 hours of developing cold symptoms and were assessed clinically, with relevant samples collected to assess virus infection and antiviral responses. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: A total of 91% of randomized patients developed a defined cold. In this modified intention-to-treat population, asthma symptoms did not get clinically significantly worse (mean change in six-item Asthma Control Questionnaire <0.5) and IFN-β treatment had no significant effect on this primary endpoint, although it enhanced morning peak expiratory flow recovery (P = 0.033), reduced the need for additional treatment, and boosted innate immunity as assessed by blood and sputum biomarkers. In an exploratory analysis of the subset of more difficult-to-treat, Step 4-5 people with asthma (n = 27 IFN-β; n = 31 placebo), Asthma Control Questionnaire-6 increased significantly on placebo; this was prevented by IFN-β (P = 0.004). CONCLUSIONS: Although the trial did not meet its primary endpoint, it suggests that inhaled IFN-β is a potential treatment for virus-induced deteriorations of asthma in difficult-to-treat people with asthma and supports the need for further, adequately powered, trials in this population. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT 01126177).