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Cell injected by viruses produce interferon, which is anti-viral in action. It spreads to neighboring cells and makes the resistant to virus infection by inhibiting virus growth. A virus entering a cell containing interferon cannot mutiply.

formation of inferon

Interferon act against a wide variety of viruses, i.e., they are not virus specific. They are, however, species specific. Interferon from one organism does not give protection against viruses to cells of another organism.

Interferon affects viral synthesis by interfering with the binding of viral mRNA with ribosomes. Thus protein synthesis is inhibited, and new viruses cannot be formed. It is believed that interferon acts by inducing a cellular gene to produce an inhibitor, which then interferes with ribosome function. A single interferon molecule is sufficient to induce inhibitor formation. Thus interferon differs acts in extremely small amounts. Although both are proteins, interferon differs from antibodies in many ways. Antibodies are formed in specialized cells, while interferon is formed only in infected cells. Antibodies are specific against a particular virus or closely related groups of viruses, while interferon acts against many different viruses. Antibodies combine with virus particles, while interferon acts by interfering with protein synthesis.

Since interferon acts against a wide variety of viruses it has the potential as an effective anti-viral agent. However, no practical general method has been found to produce interferon in human cells. Vaccination therefore continues to be the only practical way of controlling virus-borne diseases in man.

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