Injectable flu drug could add to weapons against infection

Experimental therapy takes unusual tack against virus

WASHINGTON — A single injection of an experimental flu drug can curtail symptoms of the disease, researchers report. The therapeutic shot, which inhibits the viral protein neuraminidase, is already approved for use in Japan and South Korea, and researchers hope the new findings will speed its approval in the United States.

Flu drugs in pill form are widely available but not appropriate for use in some patients. The injectable drug, though, would suit people who are immune-compromised, hospitalized or in a nursing home, said study coauthor Richard Whitley, a pediatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy on September 6. “It’s not going to be for everyone on the street.”

Researchers recruited 427 adult volunteers who had been diagnosed with influenza. Some received the drug, called peramivir, and others got a placebo shot. The drug resolved fevers in less than a day and lessened by two to three days the time when a person could infect others, Whitley said.

Peramivir works in a slightly different way in the body than existing flu drugs do, so it might prove valuable as a backstop treatment in the event of a lethal flu pandemic, Whitley said.

The drug has been developed and tested by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals of Durham, N.C. It can be given intravenously or as an intramuscular injection.

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