Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers map the global spread of drug-resistant influenza

Date:
September 15, 2011
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
In the new movie "Contagion," fictional health experts scramble to get ahead of a flu-like pandemic as a drug-resistant virus quickly spreads, killing millions of people within days after they contract the illness. Although the film isn't based entirely on reality, it's not exactly science fiction, either. In a new study, researchers explain how seasonal H1N1 influenza became resistant to oseltamivir, otherwise known as Tamiflu, the most widely used antiviral agent for treating and preventing flu. The scientists say that a combination of genetic mutations and human migration through air travel can lead to the rapid global spread of drug-resistant strains.

3-D graphical representation of a generic influenza virion’s ultrastructure.
Credit: Dan Higgins / Image courtesy of CDC

In the new movie "Contagion," fictional health experts scramble to get ahead of a flu-like pandemic as a drug-resistant virus quickly spreads, killing millions of people within days after they contract the illness.

Related Articles


Although the film isn't based entirely on reality, it's not exactly science fiction, either.

"Certain strains of influenza are becoming resistant to common treatments," said Ira M. Longini, a professor of biostatistics in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, the UF College of Medicine, and the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute. "We've been able to map out globally how this phenomenon is happening."

Longini is among a team of researchers who have published this month in the Royal Society journal Interface and explain how seasonal H1N1 influenza became resistant to oseltamivir, otherwise known as Tamiflu, the most widely used antiviral agent for treating and preventing flu. The scientists say that a combination of genetic mutations and human migration through air travel can lead to the rapid global spread of drug-resistant strains.

"If you see resistant strains in parts of the world where no one is taking antiviral drugs, that's the smoking gun that the resistant strain must be transmitting," said Longini, who also worked on this research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

In some situations, drug-resistant bacteria and viruses can spread when drugs are overused. The scientists explored this theory using a mathematical model that simulates the spread of influenza across 321 cities connected by air travel. Using this model, they found that oseltamivir use had not been nearly widespread enough to promote the spread of antiviral resistance after it arose. However, the resistant strain probably originated in one person taking the drug.

"Oseltamivir is an important prophylactic, or preventative agent, against future flu viruses, including a potential H5N1, or 'bird flu,' pandemic," said Dennis Chao, the lead author of the paper and a staff scientist at the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

However, influenza can mutate, making the drug less effective. It had been believed that this mutation would not spread because it makes the flu less transmissible in people not taking the drug.

"The fact that it spread so quickly in seasonal H1N1 between 2006 and 2008 took everyone by surprise," Chao said.

The researchers say that the mutation may have "hitchhiked" on one or more other mutations that made the drug-resistant influenza strain more transmissible. They suggest that because strains of influenza turn over so rapidly, there are many opportunities for these types of mutations to arise in an otherwise highly transmissible strain and become widespread, and it can become the dominant strain within a couple of years, making the drug useless.

"For the next pandemic, we should have all the available drugs at our disposal as a first line of defense to both prevent infection and to treat the most vulnerable," Longini said. "Or else, the chance that the next pandemic influenza strain is resistant goes up. We know something like 'Contagion' could happen for influenza."

Jesse D. Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Beth F. Kochin and Rustom Antia of Emory University are also authors of the paper.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. The original article was written by Claudia Adrien. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Researchers map the global spread of drug-resistant influenza." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110914143641.htm>.
University of Florida. (2011, September 15). Researchers map the global spread of drug-resistant influenza. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110914143641.htm
University of Florida. "Researchers map the global spread of drug-resistant influenza." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110914143641.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) The family of a Dallas nurse infected with Ebola in the US says doctors can no longer detect the virus in her. Despite the mounting death toll in West Africa, there are survivors there too. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins