An Interferon Paradox

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Science  12 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6129, pp. 155-156
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237568

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Type 1 interferons (IFN-α/β) are a major first line of host defense against viral infection. Because of this potent antiviral activity, IFN-based therapies have been developed for chronic infections with hepatitis B and C viruses, as well as for HIV. However, a poorly understood phenomenon has been the persistence of virus despite induction of antiviral immune responses by type 1 IFNs. On page 207 and 202 in this issue, Teijaro et al. (1) and Wilson et al. (2) address this long-standing question and find that IFN-α/β can also suppress the immune system in ways that promote viral persistence. This paradoxical finding should spur a reassessment of the fundamental roles of IFN-α/β during chronic infections.