Yonsei Med J.  2021 May;62(5):381-390. 10.3349/ymj.2021.62.5.381.

Roles of Type I and III Interferons in COVID-19

  • 1Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Daejeon, Korea
  • 2Laboratory of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea
  • 3The Center for Epidemic Preparedness, KAIST Institute, Daejeon, Korea


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an ongoing global pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Type I and III interferon (IFN) responses act as the first line of defense against viral infection and are activated by the recognition of viruses by infected cells and innate immune cells. Dysregulation of host IFN responses has been known to be associated with severe disease progression in COVID-19 patients. However, the reported results are controversial and the roles of IFN responses in COVID-19 need to be investigated further. In the absence of a highly efficacious antiviral drug, clinical studies have evaluated recombinant type I and III IFNs, as they have been successfully used for the treatment of infections caused by two other epidemic coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV. In this review, we describe the strategies by which SARS-CoV-2 evades IFN responses and the dysregulation of host IFN responses in COVID-19 patients. In addition, we discuss the therapeutic potential of type I and III IFNs in COVID-19.


COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; interferon; interferon-stimulated gene; therapeutics
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