Globalization is great but it also can be dangerous. We can transport shrimp grown in Vietnam to a restaurant in New York in 24 hours. From the fields or seas to your plate in a day. But that also means all the diseases man transmit can come from China to New York in less than 24 hours. The key is to go to far off places and try to find treatments for diseases before they hit the general population.
China as a Test Lab
Recently, a small trial was performed in China on the bird-flu strain H7N9 virus infection that has killed 36 people since the beginning of the year. this virus has infected the human population mostly in China since the chinese handle birds without proper protection. The virus has shown resistance to the common flu vaccine Tamiflu. Three out of 14 patients treated with antiviral drugs became severely ill while undergoing treatment. This suggests the antiviral treatment didn’t reduce their viral load, a measure of the severity of the infection. Two of the three patients died, while the third required a complicated treatment to reoxygenate his blood. All of the 14 patients had pneumonia, but most showed a reduction in the viral load during treatment with a class of antiviral drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors, which includes Tamiflu.
The researchers suspect the H7N9 virus has become resistant to the antiviral drugs in these cases. In one patient, there was evidence the resistance probably developed as a result of treatment with Tamiflu, leading to concerns that resistance might arise in response to treatment with neuraminidase inhibitors—a class of antiviral drugs targeting the influenza virus. The greatest fear imaginable is that this strain goes public and reaches the global population.
The virus is starting to adapt itself to treatment. The great thing is that we are on the front lines catching the adaption as it happens. Although most individuals will be treated successfully with Tamiflu, there will be a few that will die because the virus had adapted and resisted treatment again. Another infection wave will result and be worse since the virus will have mutated again. Researchers will have to play catch up to try and prevent the virus from infection by adjusting to the new version of Tamiflu developed to compensate for the new drug resistant strain. It is a constant game of leap frog.
If a virus starts in another nation, should we ban travel there?