Monday, August 31, 2009

Swine Flu resistance increasing

Swine Flu (or more correct, H1N1 flu) is now spread all over the world, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. It has been reported from countries all over the world, with people contracting the disease, and a majority of them recovering; for a small fraction of them, the disease worsens to the point that the afflicted person dies. One of the major factors that has helped prevent a higher number of deaths is the fact that the virus has not mutated into a virulent form. Currently, the virus is treated by the drug called oseltamivir or Tamiflu. However, like many other diseases, there will be a form of the virus that is resistant to this drug, and because they are more difficult to treat, this strain of the virus spreads.
Scientists are worried about a strain of the virus spreading that is resistant to the drug, and hence are tracking these cases. As an example, there are many forms of other bacteria caused diseases such as TB that have multi-drug resistant strains and which are of major concern to medical personnel the world over (link to article):

An increasing number of countries, including some in Asia, are now reporting Tamiflu resistant H1N1 virus. The worrying development, according to WHO, has seen 12 countries including China and Singapore. India has not reported the mutation in the virus so far. The changes in the virus reported in samples are making these strains of swine flu resistant to oseltamivir or Tamiflu - the antiviral of choice globally. Such cases have also been found in Japan, US, Hong Kong, Denmark and Canada.
Going by available data, majority of the resistant cases were reported where oseltamivir was given as preventive medication to people exposed to the flu but who had not tested positive themselves. Some cases were a result of treatment of mild illness as well as "immuno-compromised" patients or persons whose immune systems were working imperfectly.

This was the main worry in the case of earlier diseases where antibiotics were given for any problem, including treating the common cold. In the current case, health authorities are trying to prevent such a case by not allowing Tamilflu to be sold over the counter, and the dispensation of which has been restricted to either patients, or to those who are in high risk situations such as medical personnel, screening personnel.
Barring any mutation that causes the virus to become more virulent, the expectation would be that swine flu will be like any other flu, which spreads like the common flu, and patients recover after treatment. Initially, the media also went overboard, but now it seems like that there is some sense of responsibility and carefulness being exhibited by media all over the world.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 6:29 AM