As I reported earlier, finding a vaccine against the influenza virus is a bitch. But there is another way to fight future flu pandemics. Maybe.
Antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, are purported to slow the spread of the influenza virus. Unlike vaccines, which need a copy of the current flu virus to make protective antibodies after injection, antiviral drugs work against multiple evolutions of the virus.
Rather than producing antibodies, antivirals work by disrupting the virus while it’s reproducing. Influenza reproduces by attaching to the surface of it’s human host’s cells, photocopying itself inside (with host photocopiers!), and then using an enzyme to destroy part of the host cell wall to release itself. Antivirals stop the flu’s enzyme from working, meaning the reproduced virus can’t escape from the host cell.
Now, that all does sound amazing, and the World Health Organization did recommend that governments stockpile these drugs, but just because I explained how the drug is supposed to work doesn’t mean it DOES work.
The effectiveness of these drugs was called into question in late 2009 after the The British Medical Journal found little evidence that Tamiflu reduced influenza complications in otherwise healthy adults.
The BMJ also has a video about how the WHO came to recommend antiviral drugs. It’s called WHO and the Pandemic Flu “Conspiracies.” Apparently, the healthcare branch of the UN is not big on disclosing which of it’s medical advisors also work for pharmaceutical companies.
The BMJ wants change. And WHO? They haven’t really done much. There website still extols antiviral medication as part of their pandemic prevention strategy.
Oh, and they declared an end to the H1N1 pandemic earlier this week. That ought solve this complicated mess of a problem.