Swine flu starting to show resistance to drugs

Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:14am EDT

* Reduced sensitivity seen to Roche's Tamiflu, GSK's Relenza

* Affects 30 pct N.Australia samples, 10 pct from Singapore

LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) - A novel variant of swine flu has emerged in Asia with a genetic adaptation giving some resistance to Roche's (ROG.VX) Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK.L) Relenza, the two mainstay drugs used to tackle the disease.

Researchers said more than 30 percent of H1N1 swine flu infection samples from northern Australia, and more than 10 percent of those in Singapore, collected during the early months of 2011 had mildly reduced sensitivity to the two drugs.

There was no significant reduction in sensitivity to peramivir, an experimental flu drug from BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX.O).

The new variant has also been detected in other parts of Asia-Pacific, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, published in the journal Eurosurveillance (bit.ly/m5hgKv).

Although this genetic mutation has seen before in a small number of seasonal flu and H5N1 bird flu cases, it has not previously been reported in H1N1 swine flu.

H1N1 flu was discovered in Mexico and the United States in March 2009 and spread rapidly across the world. The WHO believes about 18,450 people died from the virus up to August 2010, including many pregnant women and young people. The WHO declared the pandemic over in August.

Swine flu has not gone away, however, and seasonal flu vaccines being offered across the world include for the H1N1 strain. Flu vaccines are made by several drugmakers including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi (SASY.PA) and Novartis (NOVN.VX).

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by David Hulmes)

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