Flu Virus: Drug Resistant
According to the BBC News, researchers discovered that the ‘H1N1pdm09′ virus is resistant to the drug Tamiflu, that doctors prescribe to treat this and other influenza viruses. Drug-resistance or antiviral resistance means that the virus has changed enough that the antiviral drug that once was used to treat the virus is no longer effective. Australian researchers explained that this isn’t just happening in patients with underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems, who are generally more vulnerable. The drug resistance is happening to people in the general community. Researchers spoke about their research at the ASID (Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases), saying that this resistant form of the virus could easily spread globally. However, this Tamiflu-resistant strain is still very rare – in the UK, for example, there have only been eight reported cases of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1pdm09 in the community. The good news is that the virus is still responding to Relenza, another antiviral medication.
How a Virus Becomes Drug-Resistant
Why doesn’t the swine flu virus respond to Tamiflu anymore? When the influenza virus enters our bodies, it begins to make copies of itself; sometimes, over a course of time (can be within one influenza season or spontaneously) the genetic makeup of the virus begins to change. If the virus changes enough, then it can be a some-what ‘new’ virus; like the Tamiflu-resistant strain that is appearing. The CDC tests random samples of the influenza virus from the United States and around the world to see if their genetic makeup has changed in this manner.
Swine Flu Update: What’s Next?
With swine flu cases on the rise and the discovery that a new strain of the virus is resistant to Tamiflu, health officials are on the lookout for an increase of cases around the world. As with avoiding all flu-type illnesses, washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home from work and school when you are sick are the best ways to help prevent the spread of disease.
BBC News. Drug-resistant pandemic swine flu community risk. (2013). Accessed March 20, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza Antiviral Drug Resistance. (2012). Accessed March 20, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated CDC estimates of 2009 H1N1 influenza cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States, April 2009 to April 10, 2010. (2010). Accessed March 20, 2013.
Global Incidence Map. Outbreaks. (2013). Accessed March 20, 2013.
News Track India. 13 more swine flu cases in Delhi. (2013). Accessed March 20, 2013.
The Times of India. Central teams in state to find antidote to H1N1 surge. (2013). Accessed March 20, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal Influenza – Weekly Update. (2013). Accessed March 20, 2013.
Decoding Science. One article at a time.