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AbledNews post banner with the headline: H7N9 Bird flu: Mutation makes it resistant to first-line treatments like Tamiflu. A photograph by flickr user M M (Padmanaba01) shows to women working in a stall at a chicken market in Xining, Qingai province China. There are cages of brownish-red hens and white roosters all crowded together and a table laid out with processed chicken meat in unsanitary conditions.

Researchers recommend doctors avoid using common first-line drugs like Tamiflu which could help build resistance 

 

In April of this year, researchers in China discovered the first examples that the Influenza A (H7N9) ‘bird flu’ virus had the ability to mutate and develop resistance to oseltamivir, more commonly know as Tamiflu.

 

Now a separate team of researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has confirmed it and published their results in the journal Nature Communications.

 

Nicole Bouvier, who led the team, emphasized there is no cause for alarm . . . yet, saying, “these H7N9 viruses seem to transmit fairly inefficiently overall”.

 

Photo shows greyscale photo of the H7N9 strain of the Influenza A virus as seen under an electron microscope taken at the U.S. Centers For Disease Control, showing the filaments and spheres of the virus that look like a string of pearls.

 Photo of the H7N9 strain of Influenza A as seen under an electron microscope. Source: CDC

 

For their study, Bouvier’s team worked with a mutated version of the H7N9 virus which was sampled from an infected patient in China to assess its resistance to drugs and how infectious it was before and after treatment.

 

They found it highly resistant to Tamiflu, and that it was still infectious. In fact, it infected  human cells in a laboratory dish, and spread between laboratory animals just as efficiently as a non-mutated virus.

 

“This is unusual, as it is known that when seasonal influenza viruses gain resistance to drugs, it usually happens at a cost to the virus – the cost being a reduced ability to transmit between hosts and to grow within them,” they wrote.

 

The researchers make a point of saying that while this doesn’t make it any more likely that H7N9 will develop into a global human pandemic, it does mean doctors should be cautious with their use of anti-viral medicines to treat H7N9 cases, and should evaluate using drugs other than Tamiflu, such as GlaxoSmithKline‘s Relenza.

 

A different team of researchers in the United States counters that it’s not impossible that H7N9 could eventually become easily transmissible between humans, but it would have to undergo multiple mutations first.

 

Nevertheless, scientists around the world are on alert for any signs that the virus is developing that ability.

 

You can follow our ongoing coverage of the spread of the H7N9 virus here.

 

The Latest H7N9 Stats To Date:

 

A map of Asia from the World Health Organization shows the locations of confirmed cases of H7N9 infection as of the 25th of October, 2013. The map also details the progression of cases from the beginning of the year with 4 cases and 3 deaths in february; 33 cases and 18 deaths in March; 94 cases and 23 deaths in April; 2 cases in May; no cases or deaths in June; 2 cases and 1 death in July; no cases or deaths in August or September; 2 cases in October for a total to date of 137 cases and 45 deaths.

 

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