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With flu season approaching, experts are worried about an old strain. Researchers at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute don’t expect the old strain of H1N1 to return as a threat. But, they’re concerned about what the current strain of H1N1 might learn from the old one, because of key enzymes both strains share. The older version’s resistant to Tamiflu, a critical anti-viral drug used both to prevent and reduce the severity of influenza.
Ira Longini/UF biostatistics researcher: “So there’s certainly quite a danger because of the shared N1, the shared neuraminidase, that the new pandemic strain which is spreading and is our new influenza threat right now will also acquire a resistance quite rapidly with time. It’s not a certainty but it’s a distinct possibility. What we’ve done is shown what to look for and how this can happen on a global scale.”
Researchers say new anti-viral drugs don’t come along everyday, meaning a Tamiflu-resistant strain of influenza could pose a serious problem.
Ira Longini/UF biostatistics researcher: “Influenza is not treatable by any over-the-counter drugs. You can treat the symptoms, but you can’t treat, prevent or mitigate the virus. In order to do that, you have to have a prescription for either Tamiflu or Relenza, two common antiviral drugs.”
Anti-virals remain a last defense in controlling the spread and severity of the virus.