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Fate and effects of the drug Tamiflu in the environment

The research council FORMAS in Sweden has granted 574 000 euro to a new research project that will study the environmental fate and effects of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu on the development on influenza resistance.

Tamiflu is being stockpiled all over the world for use in fighting the next influenza pandemic. However, there are growing signs that influenza viruses may develop resistance to this vital pharmaceutical, because it is routinely prescribed for seasonal influenza.

- This research project is interdisciplinary and will combine studies on the environmental fate of the drug with in vivo studies of the development of Tamiflu resistant viruses say the project leader Björn Olsen at the Department of Medical Sciences Uppsala University.

This research project presents an innovative approach to studying the development of Tamiflu resistance in influenza viruses caused by environmental contamination which is a potential threat to one of our few defences against a future influenza pandemic.

Scientists from Uppsala University, Umeå University and Karolinska Institute will investigate the potential problem from an environmental chemical, virological and infectious diseases aspect.

A wide range of topics will be addressed; studies of the degradation of Tamiflu in sewage treatment plants will be combined with screening of the environmental levels in surface water in Japan. Japan is one of the world’s top-per-capita consumers of Tamiflu and it has been estimated that approximately 40% of those that are infected by influenza viruses are treated with Tamiflu. This makes Japan one of the “Hot Spots” in the world and the research project has established collaboration with scientists at Kyoto University and several field sampling campaigns in Japan has been scheduled. Detected environmental levels will then be used in an in vivo Mallard infection model for detailed studies on the development of Tamiflu resistance in low pathogenic avian viruses. This will be combined with a screening study of the occurrence of resistant viruses in faecal samples from wild ducks in the vicinity of Japanese sewage treatment plants.

Anneli Waara | alfa
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