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BackgroundThe objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of ribavirin and recombinant interferon (RBV/rIFN) therapy on the outcomes of critically ill patients with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), accounting for time-varying confounders.MethodsThis is a retrospective cohort study of critically ill patients with laboratory-confirmed MERS from 14 hospitals in Saudi Arabia diagnosed between September 2012 and January 2018. We evaluated the association of RBV/rIFN with 90-day mortality and MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) RNA clearance using marginal structural modeling to account for baseline and time-varying confounders.ResultsOf 349 MERS patients, 144 (41.3%) patients received RBV/rIFN (RBV and/or rIFN-α2a, rIFN-α2b, or rIFN-β1a; none received rIFN-β1b). RBV/rIFN was initiated at a median of 2 days (Q1, Q3: 1, 3 days) from intensive care unit admission. Crude 90-day mortality was higher in patients with RBV/rIFN compared to no RBV/rIFN (106/144 [73.6%] vs 126/205 [61.5%]; P = .02]. After adjusting for baseline and time-varying confounders using a marginal structural model, RBV/rIFN was not associated with changes in 90-day mortality (adjusted odds ratio, 1.03 [95% confidence interval {CI}, .73-1.44]; P = .87) or with more rapid MERS-CoV RNA clearance (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.65 [95% CI, .30-1.44]; P = .29).ConclusionsIn this observational study, RBV/rIFN (RBV and/or rIFN-α2a, rIFN-α2b, or rIFN-β1a) therapy was commonly used in critically ill MERS patients but was not associated with reduction in 90-day mortality or in faster MERS-CoV RNA clearance.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America

Publication Date





1837 - 1844


Intensive Care Department, College of Medicine, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Humans, Pneumonia, Viral, Coronavirus Infections, Critical Illness, RNA, Viral, Ribavirin, Antiviral Agents, Treatment Outcome, Retrospective Studies, Aged, Middle Aged, Intensive Care Units, Saudi Arabia, Female, Male, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, Interferon alpha-2