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Combination Drugs a Potential Treatment for Influenza

The threat of serious disease requiring hospitalization caused by the emerging pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus underscores the need for new effective antivirals. One potentially effective therapeutic approach is to use drugs in combination. It is possible that administering two drugs in combination, compared to each drug alone, could reduce signs of disease and death. Moreover, treatment options for seasonal and pandemic influenza strains are becoming increasingly limited due to the rise in antiviral resistance, reinforcing the need for new therapeutic alternatives.

NIAID-supported scientists at Utah State University recently conducted a combination drug study in mouse models to test the effectiveness of using oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and T-705 together. Tamiflu is a Food and Drug Administration-licensed antiviral and T-705 is a compound in late-stage drug development. The two antivirals were selected because they act on different viral targets, so would not work in competition. They may, in fact, have complementary modes of action.

In this study, suboptimal doses (or doses that when given alone do not prevent death) of the two antivirals were combined and administered to mice infected with influenza. Survival in the combination-treated groups was compared with survival levels in groups of mice given a suboptimal dose of just one of the antivirals. Enhanced survival with the combinations was shown against three different influenza virus strains: H1N1, H3N2, and H5N1 influenza. Results of the study suggest that a combination of the two antivirals may be a viable strategy for treatment of human influenza infections.


DF Smee et al. Effects of the Combination of Favipiravir (T-705) and Oseltamivir on Influenza A Virus Infections in Mice. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. DOI: 10.1128/AAC.00933-09 (2009).

Last Updated March 12, 2013

Last Reviewed March 12, 2013