Outbreak strategy must tackle drug-resistant H7N9

VIRULENT VIRUS::Several strains of the virus that has killed at least 36 people are immune to some drugs, but tests can alert doctors to prescribe alternatives

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, May 27, 2013 - Page 3

The discovery that several strains of the H7N9 avian influenza virus have developed a resistance to drugs will affect strategies for dealing with an outbreak, a researcher said on Saturday.

Some H7N9 strains found in a Taiwanese businessman who became the first and only confirmed case of infection outside China late last month, were resistant to Tamiflu, a drug used to prevent and treat influenza, said Shih Shin-ru, director of Chang Gung University’s Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections.

Since H7N9 virus strains with the same drug-resistant gene were also detected in a patient in Shanghai, Shih said that the businessman, surnamed Lee (李), was probably exposed to large amounts of the virus while in China.

Speaking at a seminar in Taipei organized by National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health, Shih said that laboratories can develop tests for drug-resistant strains of the virus based on this finding.

Once such drug-resistant strains are found in a patient, doctors can then quickly change the drugs used for treatment, she added.

Lee returned to Taiwan on April 9 after a trip to China’s Jiangsu Province, one of the country’s H7N9 bird flu-affected areas.

He fell ill with flu-like symptoms on April 12, but did not go to see a doctor until four days later.

Lee was transferred to National Taiwan University Hospital on April 20 and confirmed to have been infected with the virus on April 24. He was discharged from the hospital on Friday.

The virus has so far infected at least 130 people in China, killing 36 of them. However, no new cases have been confirmed since May 8, according to the WHO’s Web site.