Avian flu antiviral could cause resistant strain

Scientists warn that wide-spread use of the avian flu antiviral, Tamiflu, could cause a resistant strain of the virus to develop in wild birds and threaten poultry flocks.

The team of scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Oxford, predicts that a build up of Tamiflu in rivers could force wildlife and the natural environment to become resistance to the drug, resulting in a mutant strain of the virus developing.
Andrew Singer, lead researcher, CEH, said: “An antiviral drug has never been widely used before, so we need to determine what might happen.  During a flu pandemic, millions of people will all take Tamiflu at the same time.  Over just 8 or 9 weeks, massive amounts of the drugs will be expelled in the sewage and find its way into the rivers.  It could have huge effects on the fish and other wildlife.”

The team estimates that 80% of Tamiflu is excreted in urine and faeces, and it is able to withstand degradation for several weeks.  Therefore, one proposed solution is to use a pre-treatment in the toilet bowl to prevent the antiviral transferring into the waterways.

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