WHO probing drug resistant swine flu

Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:46pm EST
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization is looking into reports in Britain and the United States that the H1N1 flu may have developed resistance to Tamiflu in people with severely suppressed immune systems, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) said five cases have been confirmed in Wales of patients infected with H1N1 resistant to oseltamivir -- the generic name of Roche and Gilead Sciences Inc's antiviral drug Tamiflu.

The patients had serious conditions that suppressed their immune systems, which can give the virus a better than usual opportunity to develop resistance, the HPA said. It said the drug-resistant strain had probably spread person to person.

"We have seen the reports, we need to look into them," WHO spokesman Thomas Abraham said in Geneva.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week also reported four cases of H1N1 resistant to Tamiflu at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. All were said to be very ill with underlying severely compromised immune systems and multiple other complex medical conditions.

The WHO spokesman said both the reports involved Tamiflu resistance in people with severely compromised immune systems.

"We'll see if we need to put any additional measures in place to protect this vulnerable group of patients. It might mean that they are at more serious risk than others," Abraham said.

People with suppressed immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from HIV are more likely to fall ill from infections.   Continued...

<p>National Councillor Doris Fiala receives a vaccination during a H1N1 swine flu virus vaccination session for members of the national parliament, during the winter parliament session in Bern, November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer</p>