Swiss drug giant Roche is currently in talks with the World Health Organisation over building a rapid-response stockpile of its antiviral Tamiflu (oseltamivir) in Asia, as another suspected bird-flu death in Turkey is reported.
And, according to media reports, aid organizations are planning to accelerate the stream of funds into the area to support the battle against the current outbreak in Turkey, which has claimed at least three lives and is thought to have infected 19 people so far.
Since its re-emergence in 2003, avain flu has racked up a death toll of at least 78 people, according to WHO figures, and fears of a potential pandemic have recently been magnified by reports that a victim in Turkey was carrying a slightly mutated form of the H5N1 virus.
Although the virus can infect humans, it is yet to mutate to become efficiently transmissible from human to human, an event which would lead to a worldwide pandemic potentially killing millions of people. But researchers from the UK’s National Institute for Medical Research, which found the mutation while carrying out tests on behalf of the WHO, noted that the same mutation has been seen before, so there is no reason for heightened concern just yet, according to BBC News Online.
Tamiflu is currently considered to be the best defence against bird flu, but the British lab also discovered that certain gene sequences of the H5N1 were sensitive to the agent and amantadine, indicating that a combination of these two medicines may provide the best protection, the BBC reports.
Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against the use of veteran flu drugs amantadine and rimantadine during this season, as the main strain of the virus has shown resistance to these medicines. The CDC has recommended that doctor’s prescribe Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza (zanamivir) instead.