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September 22, 2009

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Fears of swine flu resistance to drugs

THE swine flu virus hasn't mutated into a more deadly strain but there are some signs it is developing resistance to current treatments, the World Health Organization's chief said yesterday


Authorities are closely monitoring whether the virus was morphing into more virulent forms that would make it deadlier, the organization's Director-General Margaret Chan said.

"We are not seeing that situation right now," Chan told reporters as the WHO convened a conference in Hong Kong.

She said they were "monitoring the virus and seeing whether it has developed resistance to the current medicines that are effective." Specifically, she said they are seeing some cases of resistance to Tamiflu.

Tamiflu is one of two medicines used against swine flu, and health officials have been closely watching for signs that the virus is mutating, making the drugs ineffective.

Earlier this month, the maker of Tamiflu said it had reports of 13 cases of resistance worldwide that it called a very low rate.

The WHO says the swine-flu virus had killed 3,486 people worldwide as of September 13. South and North America account for the majority of deaths.

For now, the infection is generally mild and most people recover without treatment.

But should it become deadlier, developing nations could be especially vulnerable because those populations lacked adequate health care.


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