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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2003 Jan;9(1):1-14.

Treatment of epidemic and pandemic influenza with neuraminidase and M2 proton channel inhibitors.

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Academic and Retroscreen Virology, Barts and the London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK.


A small armentarium of anti-influenza drugs now exists, and includes the M2 blockers (amantadine and rimantadine) and the neuraminidase inhibitors (Relenza and Tamiflu). The neuraminidase inhibitors have certain advantages, including a broader spectrum of antiviral activity, including influenza A and B viruses. On the other hand, there is now much clinical experience with the M2 blockers, and these drugs are inexpensive. It is clear that influenza in different community groups needs to be managed in specific and targeted ways. For example, in the over-65-years and at-risk groups, vaccination will remain a mainstay of disease prevention. However, up to 40% of those in these groups may fail to receive vaccine, and therefore the antivirals can be used therapeutically, or, in defined circumstances, as prophylactics. At present, influenza is hardly managed in the community. The infrequent global outbreaks, pandemics, present further problems. The more extensive use of the two classes of antivirals, and also vaccines, in the important interpandemic years will provide a very significant investment in health benefits in the face of a new pandemic virus in an otherwise completely vulnerable population.

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