H5N1 Avian Flu virus mutates; shows resistance to drug

Friday, January 19, 2007

A mutation in the H5N1 avian flu or bird flu virus has been found in two humans infected with the virus located in the Gharbiyah Province of Egypt which is located about 50 miles outside of Egypt's capital Cairo.

The victims, a 16 year-old girl and her 26 year-old uncle both died in December of 2006 and both patients were administered the Bird Flu treatment oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), had shown to be less effective against their illnesses. The virus was also tested against the drugs zanamivir (Relenza®) and amantadine, and is was found that these drugs were still effective against the mutated form of this virus.

A sister of the 26 year-old also died of Bird Flu in December of 2006, but health officials have yet to determine if she died from the mutated form of the virus.

The World Health Organization is also stating that the three cases may be human to human transmission, but further tests are needed. The three cases are being treated as an outbreak and officials have yet to determine if the victims received the illness from chickens, or from one another.

"Based on the information we have, we can't yet rule out human-to-human transmission. We need to better understand the dynamics of this outbreak," said Bird Flu antivirals expert for the WHO, Doctor Fred Hayden. "It would be very worrisome" if human to human transmission did occur.

The WHO however is not concerned that this outbreak may be the start of a world-wide pandemic and it is unknown how many times Bird Flu will need to mutate before it becomes more dangerous to humans.

"Given the information we have, we don’t see any broad public health implications," said a spokeman for the WHO, Dick Thompson.

Egypt was added to the list of countries where the H5N1 virus has been found just last year. Since then the virus has only infected 18 people. Of those people, 10 have died so far, including these three cases in December.

The WHO reports that 267 people have been infected with Bird Flu in the entire world and that of those people, 161 have been confirmed to have died from the H5N1 virus.

Mutated Strains of Bird Flu have been found in Vietnam in 2005 and in Turkey in 2006.