, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 107-116
Date: 23 Aug 2012

Management of Influenza Virus Infections with Neuraminidase Inhibitors

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Abstract

Although influenza vaccination remains the primary method for the prevention of influenza, efficacy may be limited by a poor match between the vaccine and circulating strains and the poor response of elderly patients. Hence, there is an important role for antiviral therapy in the management of influenza. While amantadine and rimantadine have been available for the treatment of influenza in some countries for several years, they are only effective against influenza A viruses, they can have neurological and gastrointestinal adverse effects, and resistant virus is rapidly generated. Neuraminidase inhibitors, a new class of drug, are potent and specific inhibitors of all strains of influenza virus, and they have minimal adverse effects. The greatest benefit is seen in those patients presenting <30 hours after development of influenza symptoms, those with severe symptoms or those in high-risk groups. In addition to treatment of the infection, both drugs are effective prophylactically and have been shown to limit spread of infection in close communities, such as families and in nursing homes. No resistant virus strains have been isolated from normal individuals treated with zanamivir. Resistant virus can be isolated from approximately 1% of adults and 5% of paediatric patients with influenza treated with oseltamivir. However, infectivity of mutant viruses is generally compromised. Governments spend millions of dollars on influenza vaccination campaigns; however, once influenza virus is circulating in the community, vaccination cannot limit the spread of disease. A greater promotion of the use of neuraminidase inhibitors for the treatment and prevention of influenza could have a significant impact on limiting its spread. This could result in saving millions of dollars, not only in direct costs associated with medical and hospital care, but also significant savings in indirect costs associated with the loss of productivity at work, school and home environments. For the benefit of all communities, there needs to be a greater awareness of the symptoms of influenza and the efficacy of neuraminidase inhibitors in disease treatment.