Wednesday, June 22, 2005
This bodes ill for mankind:
"Drug-Resistant Avian Flu In China From Inappropriate Medication Of Chickens"
Avian influenza (or bird flu) outbreaks have devastated the poultry industry in Asia in recent years. Since 2003, avian flu has swept through poultry populations of at least nine countries in Eastern Asia and Southeast Asia. Tens of millions of chickens have either died form infection or have been slaughtered to contain viral spread.
Well, it seems that the WHO might have lost one of their two best weapons. An article in the 18 June 2005 Washington Post reports that the Chinese government has been encouraging Chinese farmers to treat major bird flu outbreaks among chickens by giving the chickens amantadine, an important antiviral/anti-flu drug meant for humans. The result is that now strains of the bird flu are rapidly evolving that are immune to the drug.
Treatment of chickens and other livestock with human-approved drugs is in violation of US and most international livestock guidelines. The Chinese, however, have apparently been using amantadine in chickens since the 1990s, well before China acknowledged bird flu infection of its poultry in 2004. International researchers now conclude that years of adaptation by the virus to amantadine have rendered the drug ineffective. For this reason, amantadine will no longer protect people in case of a worldwide bird flu epidemic. From the Washington Post article:
Amantadine is one of two types of medication for treating human influenza. But researchers determined last year that the H5N1 bird flu strain circulating in Vietnam and Thailand, the two countries hardest hit by the virus, had become resistant, leaving only an alternative drug that is difficult to produce in large amounts and much less affordable, especially for developing countries in Southeast Asia.