Letter to the Globe and Mail Print

Re: Ignoring Cuba

I was quite surprised that the Globe and Mail's May 12 article, "Interferon emerges as potential treatment for COVID-19," did not mention Cuba's Interferon Alfa 2B Recombinant (IFNrec), which is gaining an increasing international profile in the fight against COVID-19. Articles have been published in Newsweek, Le Monde Diplomatique, International Business Times, and important scientific journals like Lancet and the World Journal of Pediatrics. It has been used against various viral infections for which there are no specific therapies available. It has been demonstrated to activate the patient’s immune system and to inhibit viral replication. In Cuba, IFNrec has been used to combat outbreaks of dengue hemorrhagic fever and conjunctivitis, as well as treat Hepatitis B and C. It has, also, demonstrated effectiveness in combatting and providing protection against infections caused by various versions of the coronavirus, such as, SARS-CoV (the coronavirus of the 2002 outbreak) and SARS and MERS-CoV (the coronavirus of the 2012 outbreak).

While IFNrec is not a panacea, preliminary reports are promising, pointing to its efficacy (combined with other drugs) in treating COVID-19. In Cuba and its medical missions in more than 25-countries, IFNrec is a crucial part of the treatment protocols and is also used as a preventative measure to protect healthcare workers from contagion. China and Spain have incorporated IFNrec into their national protocols and clinical guidelines for COVID-19 treatment, where it is a crucial component of the anti-viral treatment to combat the coronavirus. In China, IFNrec, together with Lopinavi/Ritonavir, is part of a nebulized treatment recommended for patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. Nebulized Interferon Alfa 2B is also recommended as a treatment for children and pregnant women with COVID-19. Although, IFNrec is not the only drug used to confront the COVID-19 pandemic in China, it is one of the most used drugs for the treatment of COVID-19, especially in its aerosol form. Thus, while IFNrec is not a cure, it has shown considerable promise as a therapeutic response to COVID-19.

Many countries are now drawing on Cuba's expertise in fighting COVID-19 as the island nation has treatment regimens for COVID-19: treatments that are not available in Canada or the United States. At present more than 80 countries have requested sought to use these treatments for confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isaac Saney
Co-Chair & Spokesperson, Canadian Network On Cuba
and a Cuba Specialist, Dalhousie University
Cell: 902-449-4967