Potential H7N9 flu treatment shows promise

Researchers discovered that an antiviral treatment shows promise against the novel avian H7N9 influenza virus, according to a study soon to be published in the Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy journal.

The Kansas State University research team evaluated multiple antiviral drugs for their effectiveness against the deadly flu strain. Avian H7N9 influenza caused more than 130 human infections and at least 43 deaths in China.

Because of the lack of existing human immunity against H7 subtype influenza viruses and the lack of a commercial vaccine, antiviral drugs are critical tools to treat humans infected with H7N9.

"Both M2-ion channel blockers, such as amantadine, and neuraminidase inhibitors, such as Tamiflu or Relenza, are used as antiviral drugs for influenza infections of humans," Juergen Richt, the researcher supervising the study, said. "The emerging H7N9 viruses are resistant to the M2-ion channel blockers and some also to neuramidinidase inhibitors because of mutations in the respective viral proteins."

While H7N9 was resistant to common antivirals like Tamiflu and Relenza, the researchers found that Alferon N was able to inhibit Tamiflu-resistant H7N9 virus replication.

"In this study we report that Alferon N can inhibit wild type and Tamiflu-resistant H7N9 virus replication in vitro," Richt said. "Since Alferon N is approved for clinical use, this would allow a rapid regulatory approval process for this drug under pandemic threat."

The researchers conducted the study at the university's Biosecurity Research Institute. The research was conducted primarily by Qinfang Liu, a postdoctoral fellow in Richt's laboratory.