The swine flu has been widely believed to eventually become resistant to Tamiflu, an antiviral flu drug administered orally. Many people rely on Tamiflu instead of the vaccine for the seasonal flu to avoid contact with thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative found in most types of flu vaccines. (Though the FDA and CDC say Tamiflu is not a replacement for any flu vaccine, but in the case of the swine flu, has been approved for Emergency Use Authorization.)
Now, scientists in Denmark have discovered the first strain of H1N1 that is resistant to Tamiflu. Officials there issued a statement, quoted by Reuters:
It does not constitute a risk to public health and does not cause changes to the recommendations for the use of oseltamivir (Tamiflu).
Drugmaker Roche said they are working on keeping up with the ever-mutating H1N1 virus. It was to be expected, they said. The seasonal flu mutates and some strains of that virus are resistant to the drug.
The CDC concurs. In e-mail correspondence with Reuters, spokesman David Daigle said,
It is well known and expected that influenza virus can mutate spontaneously. The resistance has not changed the capability of the virus to transmit or cause disease, and the assessment is still that this is a relatively mild influenza.
While officials don’t seem to worry, this may be a worrisome development for parents of young children (though Tamiflu is not recommended for babes under 1), pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers, as these groups often try to avoid the mercury-laden seasonal flu vaccine and opt for the seemingly safer choice of pill form.
There’s already the tough choice of getting the swine flu vaccine after the CDC issued its recommendations of who is top priority for this brand new vaccine, currently in test mode, to be available this fall.
The Danish patient in question is now healthy and fully recovered from the swine flu.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.