Last update: July 16, 2017
Not risky for breastfeeding or infant.
Alpha-Interferon is a cytokine with antiviral, antiproliferative and immunomodulatory properties with is produced by leukocytes and lymphoblasts that are obtained by recombinant DNA engineering. On various types (2a, 2b, N1, N3, etc.), it is indicated on the treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C, some neoplasms and leukemia. See also info on Alpha-Peginterferon.
In the form of interferon-gamma is naturally found in breastmilk (Goldman 1996) where it is produced by leukocytes from colostrum and mature milk (Lawton 1979); Probably it acts on the oropharyngeal and intestinal lymphoid tissue of the infant contributing to the development and maturation of the immune system (Bocci 1993).
Interferon gamma level is higher in premature mother's milk than in at-term mother's milk (Srivastava 1996, Moles 2015). Milk pasteurization reduces the interferon gamma level (Ewaschuk 2011).
Breastfeeding, probably through increasing prolactin, increases the maternal plasma concentration of interferon gamma and interleukin compared to baseline conditions (Shimaoka 2001).
High molecular weight of various interferons, a high binding capacity to T-lymphocytes and distribution outside the plasma compartment turns it very unlikely the pass into milk.
Due to protein nature, a low oral bioavailability is predicted after being digested by the intestine of infants. Therefore, infants' plasma levels from ingested breast milk must be zero or low (Cree 2013), except in preterm infants and immediate neonatal period (2 first weeks after birth), in which there may be greater intestinal absorption.
Interferons are relatively non-toxic and no adverse effects have been reported in breastfed infants (Almas 2016)
The excretion of interferon alpha-2B into breast milk is insignificant (Haggstrom 1996, Kumar 2000). No effects were reported in an infant whose mother was given Interferon Alfa 2B (Williams 1994). Neither side effects have been observed in infants after maternal treatment for months or years with interferon beta (1A or 1B). (Hellwig 2011, Rockhoff 2012, Hale 2012, Fragoso 2013, Almas 2016).
Interferon administration does not affect prolactin production (Müller 1992) S
Several scientific societies consider that interferon beta can probably be safely used during breastfeeding (Mahadevan 2006, Bove 2014, Bodiguel 2014).
The American Academy of Pediatrics considers alpha interferon as a medication usually compatible with breastfeeding.
We do not have alternatives for Interferon alfa since it is relatively safe.
Suggestions made at e-lactancia are done by APILAM´s pediatricians and pharmacists, and are based on updated scientific publications.
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