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January 16, 2006

Flu Virus Resistance GrowsA Fistful of Euros

It's Suday morning, and I don't normally feel moved to post on a blog, but this news is disconcerting, and seems to merit the effort:

"The US government, for the first time, is urging doctors not to prescribe two antiviral drugs commonly used to fight influenza after discovering that the predominant strain of the virus has built up high levels of resistance to them at alarming speed."

The drugs which are now virtually worthless are rimantadine and amantadine (with 91% of virus samples now showing resistance). The consequence of this is that stocks of two further drugs will now be used to replace them. And the names of the two new 'front line' treatments for routine influenza: Tamiflu and Relenza. Now these two 'anti-virals' had been being kept in reserve for use in the case of any H5N1 related outbreak. The consequence of this?

The discovery (of resistance) adds to worries about how to fight bird flu should it start spreading among people. ...Now, because of the resistance issue, the newer drugs are being recommended for ordinary flu, increasing the chances that resistance will develop more rapidly to them, too, as they become more commonly used.....

or Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Julie Gerberding said the agency didn't know how the resistance occurred, saying it may have been the result of a mutation in the virus or overuse of the drugs abroad, such as in countries that permit the drugs to be purchased without a prescription.

One flu expert, Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, said the development was "disconcerting" as flu now has joined the ranks of other diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV, that recently have acquired the ability to resist front-line medications.

Posted by dymaxion at January 16, 2006 04:09 PM

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