Chinese Government Misuse of Critical Antiviral Drug Led to Resistant Strain
[Washington Post ] The Chinese Government not only waited until 2004 to notify international agencies of major outbreaks of avian influenza in its poultry which began in the 1990’s, but encouraged the widespread use of amantadine, an antiviral drug intended only for humans, as an additive to poultry feed and water to control and prevent the spread of the disease so that the affected flocks would not have to be slaughtered. The result was an amantadine-resistant strain of H5N1 which not only swept through the poultry of nine other Asian countries but killed 54 humans. The prospect of an horrific pandemic of killer influenza that might dwarf the 1918 epidemic has been made even worse because this widely available and inexpensive antiviral drug has been made useless against the new strain. The alternatives include oseltamivir and zanamivir, which are more expensive and more difficult to produce in the huge quantities needed to control new outbreaks in humans.