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Anti-fungal drug 'makes flu worse'

25 November, 2013

LONDON: A drug commonly used to beat severe fungal infections can make flu far worse, animal studies suggest.

The medicine, Amphotericin B, is given to people needing chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant. The findings, in the journal Cell Reports, showed the drug interfered with the way the body defended itself against flu.

Previous research had shown that the protein IFITM3 makes it harder for a flu virus to infect the body. Mice that are unable to produce the protein are more vulnerable to infection and will have more severe symptoms.

Now researchers at the University of Massachusetts and the Sanger Institute in the UK have shown that an antifungal drug destroys IFITM3 and leaves mice susceptible to flu.

Prof Abraham Brass, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said: "Sometimes a very useful drug can also have unforeseen effects. "We now see that a major part of the body's natural defences to influenza virus is rendered inactive by Amphotericin B.

Prof Peter Openshaw, the director of the centre for respiratory infections at Imperial College London, said the powerful medicine was prescribed for a reason and patients should stick to it.

He said the findings raised the priority for vaccinating these patients against seasonal flu.

End.

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