Mutation capability of bird flu strain
An article published recently in The Lancet highlighted the mutation capability for the bird flu strain (A/H7N9) such that it becomes resistant to current drug therapies. Two out of 14 patients with the H7N9 virus in the detailed study were found to be resistant to Tamiflu, Roche's flu drug. Neuraminidase inhibitors such as Tamiflu are currently the only known treatment option for bird flu.
In one of the patients, the gene mutation which causes the resistance was observed in samples after treatment with Tamiflu. It is suggested that this resistance is probably a response to the Tamiflu therapy itself, but may also be facilitated by treatment with corticosteroids. The importance of this finding should not be underestimated and will require close monitoring and further investigation.
Critically important to the discovery and understanding of the mutation is the genetic sequencing of the virus.
Critically important to the discovery and understanding of the mutation is the genetic sequencing of the virus. In the short-term, understanding the mechanisms of the mutation may enable alternative treatment regimens to be implemented such as promoting the early use of the neuraminidase inhibitors which help to reduce the viral load in the respiratory tract before the mutation occurs. In the longer term, the knowledge may enable new drugs and therapies to be developed.