The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded this research at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. Results of the study are now available online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Public health experts fear that the avian flu virus could develop the ability to spread easily from person to person and kill millions in a deadly flu pandemic. "We need to know whether antiviral drugs can prevent and treat avian flu, because in the early stages of a global outbreak, most people would be unvaccinated," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "If a pandemic occurs, it will take months to manufacture and distribute a vaccine to all who need it."
In its study, the St. Jude research team gave one of three possible daily dosage levels of oseltamivir or a placebo to mice infected with H5N1 influenza virus. The highest dosage level, adjusted for weight, was equivalent to the dose currently recommended for humans sick with the flu. Although the recommended human dose of oseltamivir is taken for five days, the researchers also tested an extended eight-day course in half of the mice. Oseltamivir decreases the ability of influenza virus to spread from infected cells to uninfected cells by inhibiting neuraminidase, which is an influenza protein required for the virus to exit infected cells.
Of 80 mice infected with H5N1 virus, 20 received a placebo, 30 were given osel
Contact: Linda Joy
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases