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Researchers at Mount Sinai Say a New Strain of Bird Flu Packs a Punch Even After It Becomes Resistant to Drugs
Date:12/10/2013

New York, NY (PRWEB) December 10, 2013

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai reported that a virulent new strain of influenza – the virus that causes the flu – appears to retain its ability to cause serious disease in humans even after it develops resistance to antiviral medications. The finding was included in a study that was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

It is not uncommon for influenza viruses to develop genetic mutations that make them less susceptible to anti-flu drugs. However, these mutations usually come at a cost to the virus, weakening its ability to replicate and to spread from one person to another.

Initial reports suggested that H7N9, an avian strain of influenza A that emerged in China last spring, could rapidly develop a mutation that made it resistant to treatment with the antiviral medication Tamiflu (oseltamivir). However, patients in whom drug resistance developed often had prolonged, severe infections and poor clinical outcomes. No vaccine is currently available to prevent H7N9, which infected at least 135 people and caused 44 deaths during the outbreak. In the absence of a vaccine, antiviral drugs are the only means of defense for patients who are infected with new strains of the flu.

“In this outbreak, we saw some differences in the behavior of H7N9 and other avian influenza strains that can infect humans, beginning with the rapid development of antiviral resistance in some people who were treated with oseltamivir and the persistence of high viral loads in those patients,” said lead investigator Nicole Bouvier, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Specifically, the investigators found that a drug-resistant H7N9 virus retained its ability to replicate in human respiratory cells and was comparable to a non-resistant form of the virus in producing severe illness in
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