, Volume 69, Issue 18, pp 2523-2531
Date: 17 Sep 2012

Oseltamivir Resistance and the H274Y Neuraminidase Mutation in Seasonal, Pandemic and Highly Pathogenic Influenza Viruses

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Along with influenza vaccines, the world is currently almost completely dependent on two licensed drugs for the treatment or prevention of seasonal (influenza A and B viruses) and pandemic influenza (influenza A viruses). These drugs — oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®) — are classified as neuraminidase inhibitors (NAIs) because they act by inhibiting one of the key surface proteins of the influenza virus, the neuraminidase, which in turn reduces the ability of the virus to infect other respiratory cells. Our dependence on these drugs has arisen because of high levels of resistance with seasonal influenza viruses to the older class of anti-influenza drugs, the adamantanes (amantadine and rimantadine), combined with the lack of activity of these drugs against influenza B viruses. Recently, however, significant levels of oseltamivir-resistant influenza A(H1) seasonal influenza viruses have also been encountered, which has been associated with a single amino acid change in the viral neuraminidase (H274Y). Oseltamivir is the most widely used and stockpiled NAI and, while these A(H1) viruses are still sensitive to zanamivir, it highlights the ease with which the influenza virus can mutate and reassort to circumvent available drugs. Fortunately, the current pandemic A(H1N1) 2009 virus, which is circulating globally, remains largely sensitive to both NAIs, although a small number of oseltamivir-resistant viruses have been isolated from patients to date, again with the H274Y mutation. Clearly there is a need to use the NAI drugs prudently to ensure they remain an effective defence against future seasonal and pandemic influenza viruses, along with careful monitoring of levels of resistance in the circulating viruses combined with the further development of new anti-influenza drugs.