Today the Swedish radio reported that in one year the most commonly used medication against influenza viruses; Tamiflu the medication each and everyone stockpiled in 2005 and actually one of the few medications that was somewhat useful in the treatment of bird flu infected humans have lost a lot of its potency because the flu strains has become resistant to it.
This is a problematic development because there are not many other medications that have effect on this dangerous illness and the scare that it would combine with an ordinary flu to form a ”super flu” for which we do not have a treatment has been actualized again because of this.
In fact several countries who stockpiled Tamiflu are now just going to destroy it – basically incinerate it. In many cases this is a result of decision makers not listening to the scientists telling them that Tamiflu would probably not be the best way to spend the resources to combat avian flu virus.
Last time when the bird flu was on everybody’s lips (figuratively) many voices where heard crying out that the government should start stockpiling Tamiflu, licencse it and start whole new factories to make extremely large quantities of such medications in order to have ”enough medication for everyon” in the event that bird flu should become the pandemic that some thought it might become.
The scientists at the time tried to explain that it was a bad use of resources for several reasons including the very true reason that the human version of the bird flu, the ”super flu” would be different from the bird flu virus in several ways and the Tamiflu medication may not have any effect at all on this form if it formed and in fact it was better to work from the other end with more research on bird flu itself and to prepare to find a more suitable medication tailored to the new flu when it emerged.
But this is very difficult to do unless you have an infected population to work from and to create a medication for an illness that does not exist is very difficult to not say rather impossible.
The Avian Flu virus have mutated into several strains since it was observed closely in 2005 and common antigens have been found but there is enough variation within the group of avian flu viruses that it is not possible to create a single ”strike all” medication and therefore stockpiling the Tamiflu is at best a waste of money.
Now we have observed strains that are resistant to the drug and therefore can not effectively be treated with it so if the resources had been spent on more and better research instead we might have had a broad spectrum antiviral agent or at least better anti-ful agents for the strains that are most likely to combine with a human flu and form a ”super flu” that we all dread.