U.K. to monitor drug-resistant pandemic swine flu

The United Kingdom is taking recent reports seriously about a drug-resistant pandemic flu in Australia that is circulating in the population at large.

An Australian research team led by Aeron Hurt from the Melbourne-based World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza, recently reported that a strain of swine flu has become resistant to the antiviral Tamiflu (oseltamivir). The strain is rare but it is beginning to be found outside of hospitals and in people who were never treated with the antiviral, BBC reports.

The research suggests the virus is fitter than other drug-resistant strains and could circulate throughout the world.

Experts in the U.K. have seen a handful of similar cases and the Health Protection Agency said it would closely monitor the situation. In the U.K., the HPA recorded eight cases of oseltamivir-resistant H1N1pdm09 in the community setting.

"While the frequency of oseltamivir resistance in community settings has increased slightly since the 2009-10 pandemic from (1 percent to 2 percent) in the 2012-13 flu season, rates of detection remain low," Richard Pebody, the head of flu surveillance for the HPA, said, according to BBC.

Hurt said the new strain is more able than most drug-resistant strains to spread from person to person.

"The greatest concern is that these resistant viruses could spread globally, similar to that seen in 2008 when the former seasonal H1N1 virus developed oseltamivir resistance and spread worldwide in less than 12 months," Hurt said, according to BBC.

Hurt said that similar resistant strains were detected in Europe, but the strains were only found on an ad hoc basis, BBC reports.

"The widespread transmission and circulation of oseltamivir-resistant H1N1pdm09 viruses remains a risk in the future," Hurt said, according to BBC. "Close monitoring of resistant viruses in both treated and community patients remains important."