PHILADELPHIA, May 5, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Hemispherx Biopharma (NYSE MKT:HEB) announced that one of its advanced stage biological products, Alferon® N, significantly inhibited the replication of the MERS virus in vitro. MERS-CoV is a recently emerged human coronavirus responsible for the lethal pulmonary syndrome known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Recent testing in laboratories of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has revealed that Alferon® N was inhibitory to MERS-CoV both when used before test cells were exposed to MERS-CoV, as well as after the cells were exposed to the deadly virus. Over 400 cases of MERS infection, including over 100 deaths, have been reported to date. More than 200 new cases of MERS infection were seen in the month of April, exceeding the total for the preceding two years since the disease emerged in 2012, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) on April 30, 2014. Health officials say there is no known cure for MERS, and they have little information about the origins of the virus and how it is transmitted. NIAID researchers led the Alferon® N MERS-CoV experiments. They treated monkey kidney cells with Alferon® N either 18 hours prior to infection with MERS-CoV ("pre-treatment") or 1 hour following infection with MERS-CoV ("post-treatment"). At Day 1 and Day 3, supernatants were collected from cells and virus titers were thereafter measured. In both cases, Alferon® N showed significant dose-dependent inhibitory effects, thus suggesting the potential of Alferon® N both as a preventive and a potential treatment. Laboratory ( in vitro) studies of potential antiviral agents are not necessarily predictive of clinical benefits. The Company was not involved in the conduct of the experimentation. The results were forwarded to Hemispherx at the conclusion of the experiments and formal publication is pending. Juergen Richt, DVM, PhD, Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University, stated "This is encouraging news. Non-human primate animal model testing of Alferon may give us more definitive data about the efficacy of this natural interferon against MERS."