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Ramifications of Widespread Use of Tamiflu

Viral News

Jan 03, 2007
Newswise — Widespread use of the antiviral Tamiflu to fight pandemic avian flu in humans could actually lead to the development of what public health officials hope to avoid––drug-resistant strains of the virus in wild birds. British researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxford have released findings in the January 2007 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) that demonstrate how Tamiflu’s persistence in wastewater and river water could affect the waterfowl that drink from those water sources.
Since the World Health Organization’s first warning of an avian flu pandemic two years ago, nations worldwide have been stockpiling Tamiflu for treatment and outbreak prevention. The drug, which minimizes flu symptoms and duration, inhibits the movement of the influenza virus from the cells it infects, and also helps uninfected people avoid contracting the flu. However, Tamiflu’s active agent, the metabolite oseltamivir carboxylate (OC) would be excreted into sewers for several weeks during a pandemic and is expected to withstand biodegradation. According to the researchers in the current study, once birds drink OC-laced water from catchments receiving treated wastewater, they could produce Tamiflu-resistant strains and pass them on to other birds who share the same waters.

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