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July 6, 1970


JAMA. 1970;213(1):118-119. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170270058016

Discovered 13 years ago by Isaacs and Lindenmann,1 interferon has been slow in capturing the interest of the practicing physician. As a defense mechanism not involving immune processes, it did not convey a sense of importance to minds which are accustomed to equate resistance to infection with immunity. Nor did the apparent lack of practical applicability enhance its relevance to the physician's concerns. This apathy gradually dissipated with accumulating knowledge which showed these reservations to be unfounded.

Far from being marginal to the body's defense against viral infection, interferon emerges as its most important component. Coming into contact with the invading virus much sooner than do humoral or cell-mediated antibodies, it becomes the major determinant in recovery by inducing the formation of a substance which interferes with viral replication. It may also travel beyond the target cell to distant sites to prevent the spread of the virus. Viewed teleologically, the