Article Date: Friday 20 11 09 17:56 UTC|
Full Article: World news: Swine flu | guardian.co.uk
Resistant strain discovered in Cardiff hospital, prompting concern among health officials
Doctors in Wales have discovered a Tamiflu-resistant strain of swine flu that has been spreading from patient to patient in a Cardiff hospital.
The emergence of an easily transmissible, resistant strain is a worrying development for health officials and appears to be the first documented case in Europe.
Five patients at University Hospital Wales, in Cardiff, were infected and isolated for treatment. All had severe underlying conditions that left them with weakened immune systems. At least three had acquired the infection in hospital.
There have been a handful of reported cases from around the world of Tamiflu-resistant strains of the H1N1 virus. Only one previous case, at a US summer camp, however, involved person-to-person transmission.
The Cardiff patients have been treated with an alternative anti-viral drug. Two have recovered and been discharged and three others remain in hospital, one in intensive care.
Dr Roland Salmon, the director of the communicable disease surveillance centre in Wales, said: "The emergence of [H1N1] viruses that are resistant to Tamiflu is not unexpected in patients with serious underlying conditions and suppressed immune systems, who still test positive for the virus despite treatment.
"In this case, the resistant strain of swine flu does not appear to be any more severe than the swine flu virus that has been circulating since April.
"For the vast majority of people, Tamiflu has proved effective in reducing the severity of illness. Vaccination remains the most effective tool we have in preventing swine flu so I urge people identified as being at risk to look out for their invitation to be vaccinated by their GP surgery."
Any spread of a Tamiflu-resistant strain of the virus into the community would constitute a serious public health concern. The government recently reminded those who caught swine flu to take Tamiflu as a first line of medical defence.
A Department of Health official in London said: "We take this development seriously, but the Health Protection Agency considers that the risk to the general healthy population is low. The Tamiflu-resistant virus has emerged in a group of particularly vulnerable individuals – this type of resistance is well documented.
"Our strategy to offer anti-virals to all patients with swine flu is the right one – to help prevent complications and reduce the severity of the illness. We are keeping the situation under review."Owen Bowcott
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