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Swine flu showing drug resistance

30th June 2009

The H1N1 swine flu virus has been shown to have developed resistance to a common antiviral drug.

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The virus was shown to have become resistant to Roche's Tamiflu, also known as oseltamivir.
Tamiflu is the main weapon in the public health arsenal against the swine influenza pandemic, which was decalared earlier this month by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Roche has now confirmed that a patient in Denmark with H1N1 influenza showed resistance to Tamiflu.

The company said 'A' type seasonal influenza had also been known to do the same, and therefore the result was not very surprising.

The United Kingdom has seen three deaths so far from swine flu. The deaths however included a six-year-old girl with underlying health problems, and hospital officials said swine flu was known known for certain to be the cause of her death.

The United States says it estimates that the virus has now infected at least a million Americans.

In the UK, authorities have said the number of swine flu cases had spiked recently, with more than 1,000 new cases since last week, making nearly 6,000 cases nationwide.

So far, the virus has yet to be reported to be developing resistance to Tamiflu in Britain.

Tamiflu can be effective against all forms of influenza if it is taken at the outset. It produces milder symptoms than would be experienced without it, and makes the patient less infectious to others.

The Danish case was the first to be reported of Tamiflu resistance in H1N1, but Roche said there was no sign that the resistant strain was circulating within the community.

Last year's seasonal flu developed a Tamiflu-resistant strain and began circulating widely.

If this happened with swine flu, it could render Tamiflu ineffective in fighting the current pandemic.

One other drug, GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza, also known as zanamivir, has also shown to be effective against swine flu.

Governments around the world began stockpiling antiviral drugs in preparation for a pandemic. The British authorities say they currently have enough to treat half the population.


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