The drug Tamiflu is one of few defences against a future influenza pandemic. However, more and more viruses develop resistance to Tamiflu. Thanks to a large grant of SEK 5.9 million from the research council Formas, researchers will study the environmental fate and effects of Tamiflu.
Tamiflu is being stockpiled all over the world for use in fighting the next influenza pandemic, and it’s also in some countries routinely prescribed for regular, seasonal influenza. Japan is one of the world’s top per-capita consumers of Tamiflu and it has been estimated that approximately 40% of those that are infected by influenza viruses are treated with Tamiflu. This over-consumption is one reason why influenza viruses may be developing resistance to this vital pharmaceutical.
“In this research project we will study the development of Tamiflu resistance viruses and combine that with studies on the environmental fate of the drug – how Tamiflu is degradated in sewage treatment plants and how high levels of Tamiflu exists in surface water,”says the main applicant Hanna Söderström at the Chemistry department at Umeå University.
“We will perform our studies in collaboration with scientists at Kyoto University,” she explains. Scientists from Uppsala University, Umeå University and Karolinska Institute will investigate the potential problem from an environmental chemical, virological and infectious diseases aspect.
Detected environmental levels will be used in an in vivo Mallard infection model for detailed studies on the development of Tamiflu resistance viruses. This will be combined with a screening study of the occurrence of resistant viruses in faecal samples from wild ducks in the vicinity of Japanese sewage treatment plants.
This is an innovative approach to studying the development of Tamiflu resistance in influenza viruses caused by environmental contamination.
“Tamiflu is one of few strategic drugs against future influenza pandemic, which is why we need more knowledge about why and how the resistance is growing,” says Hanna Söderström.
The full title of the project is “Occurrence and fate of the antiviral drug Oseltamivir in aquatic environments and the effect on resistance development in influenza A viruses.” and the co-applicants are Björn Olsen, Dept. of Medicinal Sciences, Uppsala University, Åke Lundkvist, Dept. of Microbiology Tumour and Cellbiology, Karolinska Institute, Johan Lennerstrand, Dept. of Medicinal Sciences, Uppsala University and Jerker Fick, Dept of Chemistry, Umeå University