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Study: Excessive use of antiviral drugs could aid deadly flu
Date:1/7/2009

that one gets killed by the drug. So according to the survival of the fittest, a slightly modified virus can spread by escaping the effects of the drug."

Researchers believe that Tamiflu has not been used widely anywhere in the world except Japan, and no pattern of resistance similar to that seen for adamantanes has emerged. However, recent reports have suggested a spike of resistance to oseltamivir in strains of seasonal influenza have occurred in Northern Europe and Canada. In analyzing the avian flu genomes, the researchers looked for mutations that would show the virus's ability to resist the oseltamivir class of drugs to which Tamiflu belongs. These drugs fight flu by inhibiting the neuraminidase protein in the virus.

"Resistance to Tamiflu was not nearly as widespread as is resistance to adamantanes," Janies said. "But based on our results, we know resistance to Tamiflu can occur spontaneously in nature, we know it can occur in patients, and we know Tamiflu is widely used in Japan. We should continue to watch for resistance, and use this adamantane history as a warning."

A critical part of any genome comparison is assembling supercomputers that allow researchers to put complex data into context.

"Genomes are represented as raw, partially annotated strings of letters. Each genome on its own doesn't tell you much because all you see is a single state. What we need to see is change over time to find the evolutionary history. That requires computational power to match like regions of the genome, put the data into context and see the trajectory of the change," Janies said.

The result is called a phylogenetic tree that documents the shared mutations. Phylogenetics is the study of the evolutionary relationships among various biological species believed to have a common ancestor. In this analysis, the phylogenetic tree is projected into Google Earth and animated to show when mutations emerged and where drug-resistant avian
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Contact: Daniel Janies
Daniel.Janies@osumc.edu
614-292-1202
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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