In the advent of an influenza virus pandemic it is likely that the administration of antiviral drugs will be an important first line of defence against the virus. The drugs currently in use are effective against seasonal influenza virus infection, and some cases have been used in the treatment of patients infected with the avian H5N1 influenza virus. However, it is becoming clear that the emergence of drug-resistant viruses will potentially be a major problem in the future efforts to control influenza virus infection. In addition, during a new pandemic, sufficient quantities of these agents will need to be distributed to many different parts of the world, possibly at short notice. In this review we provide an overview of some of the drugs that are currently available for the treatment and prevention of influenza virus infection. In addition, basic research on influenza virus is providing a much better understanding of the biology of the virus, which is offering the possibility of new anti-influenza virus drugs. We therefore also review some new antiviral strategies that are being reported in the scientific literature, which may form the basis of the next generation of antiviral strategies during a future influenza virus pandemic.
Over the past 100 years there have been 3 major influenza virus pandemics, which have among them claimed millions of lives. In 1918 the first of these pandemics occurred suddenly, and without warning.
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