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PandemicsNew, drug-resistant pandemic swine flu may go global

Published 19 March 2013

Health experts in Australia have expressed concerned about the threat of a new type of drug-resistant pandemic flu which is circulating in the population at large. These experts say that the new strain of swine flu has learned how to dodge the antiviral Tamiflu. While it is still rare, it is now spreading outside of hospitals. U.K. health officials, who have already recorded eight cases of the new strain in the United Kingdom, agree with their Australian counterparts that the new virus has the potential to turn global.

Swine flu may approach pandemic level // Source: paraskhnio.gr

Health experts in Australia have expressed concerned about the threat of a new type of drug-resistant pandemic flu which is circulating in the population at large.

These experts say that the new strain of swine flu has learned how to dodge the antiviral Tamiflu and while rare, is now spreading outside of hospitals.

The BBC reports that the research team which examined the virus say it is “fitter” than other drug-resistant strains, and thus more dangerous.

The BBC notes that U.K. experts have also said the have come across a few similar cases.

 

The UK’s Health Protection Agency said it would be closely monitoring the situation.

The research team presented its findings at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases. The researchers described how the H1N1pdm09 swine flu virus is still sensitive to another antiviral drug Relenza (zanamivir) – b thatut Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is now powerless against the strain.

The researchers noted that the virus was found in people in the community rather than sick patients, especially people  with serious underlying conditions and weak immune systems.

Lead investigator Dr. Aeron Hurt, from the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, said: “The greatest concern is that these resistant viruses could spread globally, similar to that seen in 2008 when the former seasonal H1N1 virus developed oseltamivir resistance and spread worldwide in less than 12 months.”

Another worrisome aspect of the new strain is that it was found to emerge among people who have never been treated with Tamiflu, which suggests it is very good at spreading from person to person.

The Tamiflu-resistant strain is relatively rare still, but Dr. Hurt is concerned that it has the potential to turn global.

The widespread transmission and circulation of oseltamivir-resistant H1N1pdm09 viruses remains a risk in the future.

Close monitoring of resistant viruses in both treated and community patients remains important.”

The U.K.’s HPA has recorded eight cases of oseltamivir-resistant H1N1pdm09 in the community setting.

The HPA’s head of flu surveillance Dr. Richard Pebody said: “While the frequency of oseltamivir resistance in community settings has increased slightly since the 2009-10 pandemic from 1-2% in the 2012/13 flu season, rates of detection remain low.”

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