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Single flu jab not enough

15th May 2008

The UK government is reviewing its position on flu vaccines after research highlighted how no single drug will be capable of treating all the victims of a global flu epidemic.

Vaccination1

Tests carried out with the H5N1 strain of bird flu have revealed that it is developing resistance to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu.

The study by the Medical Research Council, published in Nature, emphasises the need to stockpile more than one type of drug.

The UK government has stockpiled millions of doses of Tamiflu but after receiving advice that its one-drug strategy may be flawed, it is reviewing its position.

So far, there have been 382 human cases of the H5N1 bird flu virus, mostly in south-east Asia, of which 241 have died.

Most cases have been in poultry workers and at present the virus cannot pass that easily from human to human, but if that changes it will pose a potential threat across the world.

Researchers focused on the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza and found that in characterising a mutation in the structure of N1 that has been observed in human cases of H5N1, discovered the virus became resistant to Tamiflu, while still remaining susceptible to Relenza.

Dr Steve Gamblin, who led the research, said stockpiling any one drug to prepare for a potential H5N1 pandemic is unlikely to provide adequate cover.

He added: ‚ÄúThere is a huge imperative to develop further drugs and it is likely a future pandemic will need to be tackled using a three or four-pronged approach, much as we tackle HIV today.‚Ä?

 

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