Researchers seek better plan for Tamiflu-resistant flu viruses

Swedish researchers are trying to learn more about Tamiflu-resistance to prevent flu virus resistance to other antivirals in the future, according to recently released research by Umea University.

Researchers from Umea University, Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences are using a multidisciplinary approach to determine what happens when the antiviral Tamiflu comes out in nature. Tamiflu is the most widely used antiviral drug against flu.

"Our results show that Tamiflu's active metabolite, secreted by human urine, is not removed in traditional wastewater treatment plants," Hanna Söderström, one of the lead researchers, said. "We have been able to trace Tamiflu in river water in Japan during the flu season 2007/2008 as well as in Europe during the influenza pandemic 2009. Japan is the country that uses most antiviral drugs in the world during seasonal flu."

The researchers determined that ducks swimming near treatment plants in water with environmentally relevant concentrations of Tamiflu developed resistance to the antiviral. If a resistant influenza virus were to spread to humans and cause a pandemic, it could result in a serious public health threat.

The research team is looking to be one step ahead of drug resistance by developing a national knowledge center on the effects of antiviral drugs in the environment.

"It is particularly important to examine the risk of resistance development before the drug is used more extensively so that we can adjust the prescription and implementation of a sound preparedness planning for future pandemics," Josef Järhult, another lead researcher, said.

Another part of the research is focusing on better wastewater treatment to determine if methods like ozone wastewater treatment can remove antiviral drugs from water.