Global health agency, the World Health Organisation to investigate reports of Tamiflu resistant Swine Flu cases in Britain and the United States
Reuters reports that the World Health Organisation will investigate cases in the United States and Britain where it appears that H1N1 influenza, commonly known as swine flu, has become resistant to the antiviral drug, oseltamivir, known commercially as Tamiflu.
Sky News reported on 21 November of five cases of swine flu that appeared to be resistant to the drug. The infections occurred in one ward of a Welsh hospital containing patients with pre-existing conditions. The Health Protection Agency said that the drug resistant swine flu did not appear to be any more virulent than other types of flu and that the current risk to the general population from the osteltamivir resistant swine flu was low.
Four cases of H1N1 influenza resistant to Tamiflu were reported at Duke University Hospital, North Carolina. Similar to the patients in Wales, the Duke University Hospital patients had pre-existing and complex medical conditions and were in the same ward. In a statement, Duke University Hospital advised that it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and other public health agencies to examine the four cases.
Speaking in Geneva, WHO spokesman Thomas Abraham said the global health agency would look into the reports from Britain and the United States to determine
"if we need to put any additional measures in place to protect this vulnerable group of people with severely compromised immune systems."
In a statement, the UK’s Health Protection Agency noted that resistance to oseltamivir can occur and develop quickly in immunosuppressed patients and that while 57 cases of oseltamivir resistance had been reported globally, there had no previous reports of person to person transmission of drug resistant swine flu.
In a related matter, scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health announced on 20 November that they had found a mutation of the H1N1 virus, which potentially created a more serious illness. The World Health Organisation will investigate the mutation however spokesman Thomas Abraham said
"As of now there is no evidence of a particular association with severe cases. So far, antiviral drugs and vaccines have been effective against the mutated form."
The World Health Organisation reports that as at 20 November, over 526,060 cases of swine flu have occurred globally and the virus has been responsible for at least 6,770 deaths.