To combat treatment resistant flu viruses, University of Arizona College of Pharmacy researchers are developing new, and effective treatments for the influenza A viruses.

Jun Wang, PhD, and COP assistant professor and BIO5 Institute Investigator, and his team have been working to combat the evolution of multi drug-resistant flu viruses.

Each year, 10 to 20 percent of the United States population gets the flu, causing an estimated 36,000 deaths, and 200,000 hospitalizations from flu-related complications.

There are only two classes of FDA-approved anti-influenza drugs out there, neuraminidase inhibitors, such as Tamiflu, and M2 inhibitors, such as Symmetrel and Flumadine. Tamiflu has been on the market since 1999, and Symmetrel and Flumadine have been on the market since 1966 and 1994 respectively.

“Currently, 99 percent of the circulating flu viruses are resistant to M2 channel blockers, so this class of drugs is no longer useful,” Wang says. “The other class of drugs, neuraminidase inhibitors, are the only treatments we have. It’s the first line of defense, but it’s also the last line of defense.”

Many of the current drugs out there are effective, but its effectiveness can drop because of the evolution of multi drug-resistant flu viruses, Wang said.

Wang and the researchers are working on creating strategic solutions to create the next generation of antiviral drugs to help prevent influenza outbreaks. The researchers focus on a viral protein that has few mutations, so there are fewer flu variations that need a “custom” drug.

“What is exciting about our drugs is that they are highly active against flu viruses that are isolated from human patients, including viruses that are resistant to both adamantanes and Tamiflu,” Wang says, “so these drugs will be your next choice if the current drug fails.”

The team has been working to improve the potency of its proposed drug, and have been testing several compounds on animals.