The flu is a serious but common infectious disease whose height falls between the fall and winter whilst peaking between December and February. “Because of the widespread and debilitating nature of the disease, annual influenza epidemics result in substantial workplace absenteeism, and the associated cost of lost productivity is a significant component of the substantial financial burden of the disease to society.” However, a new medication could lower the amount of recovery time required to successfully get over the flu.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has recently given priority to a pill that can control flu symptoms after a single dosage. The drug is called baloxavir marboxil and should be formally approved or denied by the conclusion of this year, allowing it to reach markets in the United States as soon as 2019. The drug is designed to target oseltamivir-resistant and avian strains (also known as strains A and B) of the flu by inhibiting a protein within the flu virus that is essential to its replication in and infection of the human body.
Viruses trigger an infection by copying themselves and spreading throughout the body. In order to replicate itself, a virus must first begin by inserting its genetic material into the cells of the host. The genetic material then functions as an instruction manual for the cell and replaces the cell’s original DNA. After this has occurred, the viral genetic material effectively over-rides the DNA that was originally present within the healthy cell. This hostile takeover causes the cell to begin to produce the basic components of the original virus. The components are then assembled to produce many copies of the virus that attacked the cell. These new viruses are then released into the body to invade other cells and repeat this process.
The drug in question prevents some strains (the oseltamivir-resistant and avian strains in this case) of the flu virus from being able to insert their genetic material into the host cells. Although it may not seem to be an effective solution, viruses require a host to be able to reproduce – as they cannot on their own; therefore, by preventing a virus from inserting its genetic material into cells, the spread and multiplication of the virus is mitigated. The host does not get an infection and does not get sick from the virus.
Baloxavir marboxil was developed by the Shionogi company (a pharmaceutical company based in Japan) and has been in use in Japan to treat Influenza since February of 2018. “For both individual patients and public health, baloxavir marboxil has the potential to play an important role [in] reducing transmission [of the flu]. Studies are underway in high-risk patients to assess any effect on complications of influenza, which remains an unmet medical need.”
In addition, the shorter recovery period, as discovered in the medication’s test results, can help flu victims get back on their feet sooner. Fever resolution for baloxavir marboxil took approximately 24.5 hours, a shorter time period when compared to oseltamivir and the placebo treatment. The drug was also “well-tolerated and had a numerically lower overall incidence of adverse events (20.7 percent) reported compared with placebo (24.6 percent) or oseltamivir (24.8 percent).”
Although the medication is still undergoing testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, consumers should be aware of whether or not the pill passes by the end of this month. If made widely available, it could result in a faster recovery time and limit illness income loss.
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