Duck Flu Defense? Tamiflu From Urine Builds Up Downstream

By Brett Israel | October 2, 2009 2:02 pm

duck_webA team of researchers recently discovered that Tamiflu, the leading flu-fighting drug,  is accumulating in rivers downstream from sewage-treatment plants in Kyoto. How is this possible? Tamiflu’s active ingredient, oseltamivir phosphate, is excreted in the urine of people taking the medication. Concerns are now building that birds, which are natural influenza carriers, are being exposed to waterborne residues of Tamiflu’s active form and might develop and spread drug-resistant strains of seasonal and avian flu [Science News]. The resistant virus strains would be of the conventional seasonal or avian flu variety, not the H1N1 swine flu strain that is currently pandemic in humans. Seasonal flu, however, kills thousands of people each year.

Study coauthor Gopal Ghosh explains that the team took measurements during normal flu season, and found concentrations that seem “high enough to lead to antiviral resistance in waterfowl” [Science News]. Computer models show that oseltamivir phosphate will survive sewage treatment, but it should break down when exposed to sunlight and its concentrations should decrease by half every three weeks. The high concentrations were found during a period where 1,738 flu cases were reported in Kyoto, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. In the United States, Tamiflu is only recommended for the very sick or those with compromised immune system, while Japan has a more liberal policy.

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Image: flickr / law_keven

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World
  • addicted to bad

    That is a very angery duck.

  • Art

    I thought he looked angry but angery is a whole new level of mad.

  • Frog

    I wonder what the people who write these in-depth articles think when they see the only comments about their work is how angry the picture looks. And yeah, that duck is totally pissed.

  • sharonb

    Thanks for the laughs, and yes it is a sorry day when we are reduced to comments on the duck. People who take antibiotics should go in the bushes, not down the drain, that will save the birds, fishes, and the ducks.

  • http://yahoo dwhitlow

    we should pee at the tamiflu factory

  • JJ

    That would be the ultimate in recycling, yes? Ah, the evolution of resistance. . .

  • Barbara

    This just reaffirms my motto: “you can’t throw anything away, because there is no away.”
    Everything stays somewhere in the environment, and will rear its ugly head sometime in the future.

  • Brian Too

    I personally am whizzing out Tamiflu because I love animals and want the best for those ducks. A little downstream antiviral dose and those ducks are bird-flu-proof!

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