A recent approach to the prevention or control of viral diseases has been to consider the use of cytokines as potential therapies. This has increased with the recent commercial availability of recombinant protein cytokines.
The cytokines that have been studied, both experimentally and in humans, as antiviral therapies include interleukin-1, -2, -6 and -7, interferon-α, -β and -γ, tumour necrosis factor-α and -β, and the colony-stimulating factors. This article covers the therapeutic use of these cytokines in all important virus diseases, with particular emphasis on human immunodeficiency virus infection, including the related Kaposi's sarcoma.
Significant antiviral effects have been reported for most of these cytokines. Beneficial effects are particularly apparent when they are used in combination with the more traditional antiviral agents.
The cytokines have extraordinarily broad biological functions. Some of these functions may reverse the desired antiviral action and may indeed bring about an enhancement or activation of viral infections, depending on how they are used. Such effects have been reported with some of the cytokines discussed in this review.