Thursday, December 22, 2005

News - Frightening Tamiflu report

A new report has cast doubt over the drug used to combat bird flu, after two people died despite receiving the treatment.

A study of 13 Vietnamese patients infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu found that two developed a rapid resistance to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu.

The report published in the New England Journal of Medicine came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed that a 39-year-old man and an eight-year-old boy died earlier this month of bird flu in Indonesia.

The Department of Health (DoH) is stockpiling 14.6 million courses of the drug, which it hopes will shorten the length of illness and reduce the symptoms.

A spokesman for the DoH said it would be "carefully considering" the research. She said: "While there is some anecdotal evidence of the build-up of resistance to anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu, at present the experience is that these drugs do work and that they should work against a pandemic strain."

Tamiflu was the internationally-agreed product of choice, she added.

In the Vietnamese study, a 13-year-old girl died eight days after starting treatment. Her condition initially improved when she received the Tamiflu dose, but gradually worsened.

The girl and another patient, who died 14 days after starting treatment, were found to have an increased amount of the virus in their throats compared with the initial diagnosis.

Commenting on the report in the journal, Professor Anne Moscona of Cornell University in New York, said Tamiflu-resistant H5N1 "is now a reality".

"This frightening report should inspire us to devise pandemic strategies that do not favour the development of Tamiflu-resistant strains," she said.

But a senior WHO official today said some resistance was inevitable with any kind of drug.

Keiji Fukuda, a scientist at the WHO's global influenza programme, said: "Whenever you use any kind of drugs, antivirals or antibiotics, you expect to see resistance develop in organs.

"Finding some resistance in and of itself is not surprising and is not necessarily alarming".

Telegraph News 'Frightening' Tamiflu report


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