A community-based study published by Roche ’s Aeron Hurt, London ’s Imperial College ’s Wendy Barclay and colleagues on PLOS Pathogens shows that Baloxavir treatment can reduce the transmission of influenza virus from infected ferrets to healthy ferrets This flu drug may control the flu epidemic at an early stage by limiting the spread of the virus. As the author points out, this is the first evidence that the rapid reduction of infectious virus particles associated with Baloxavir treatment means that the risk of spreading influenza to contacts is reduced.
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Influenza viruses cause seasonal outbreaks and pose a continuing pandemic threat. Although influenza control vaccines are available, their effectiveness varies from season to season, and new pandemic virus vaccines made using current technology are not readily available and therefore cannot be used to mitigate the impact of the first pandemic wave. Antiviral drugs are effective against many different influenza viruses, but they have not been widely used for epidemic control. The recently approved antiviral drug baloxavir has been shown to be more effective than the widely used drug oseltamivir in reducing the number of virus particles produced by infected people. In this new study, the researchers tested whether Baloxavir treatment might also interrupt the continued spread of the virus.
They found that compared to placebo, baloxavir treatment reduced the shedding of upper respiratory tract infectious virus in ferrets infected with pdm09 type H1N1 influenza virus and reduced the frequency of transmission, even if treatment was delayed to two days after infection. In contrast, oseltamivir treatment did not significantly affect the shedding or spread of the virus compared to placebo. Importantly, the researchers did not find anti-baloxavir mutations in animals. These results support the idea that reducing viral shedding by antiviral drugs can also reduce the spread of influenza in the community. The author believes that this effect has the potential to dramatically change the way we manage influenza outbreaks, including pandemic influenza.
The author adds: "Our research shows that baloxavir has a dual effect on influenza: a dose of medicine can reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of transmitting symptoms to others."