New inhaled drug protects from flu in 1 dose

WASHINGTON — A single dose of an experimental influenza drug saves more mice from H5N1 avian influenza than the preferred drug Tamiflu, researchers reported Feb. 26, and can also protect against infection.

The tests of Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd's CS 8958 or laninamivir show that one inhaled dose worked better than Tamiflu to keep mice alive when infected with a normally deadly dose.

The report in the Public Library of Science Journal PLoS Pathogens covers one of the dozens of ongoing studies of a new batch of influenza drugs being developed by a variety of companies.

"Importantly, a single dose of CS-8958 conferred a more potent and long-lasting protective effect to mice against H5N1 influenza viruses than that of oseltamivir phosphate," Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and colleagues wrote in their report.

They gave a single dose to mice two hours after infecting them with H5N1, which experts fear could cause a pandemic, and also used it to prevent infection.

"CS-8958 is, therefore, a promising candidate for a new neuraminidase inhibitor to prevent and treat influenza patients infected with H5N1 and other subtype viruses," they wrote.

The study was funded by Daiichi Sanyo and the Japanese government, neither of which had a say in the study's design or publication.

H5N1 is still circulating and experts say it could also change at any time into a form easily passed from one person to another, and it has been far more deadly than H1N1.

Drugs that work against one form of influenza usually work against others and Daiichi Sankyo has said it plans to apply for approval of the drug by next month. It aims to bring it to market by March 2011.