A Hong Kong University research team have discovered strong evidence that two existing osteoporosis drugs may be useful in fighting human influenza.
Reuters and Indopia an English-language India publication are also reporting that a Hong Kong University study of two osteoporosis drugs from Novartis may be effective in treating different varieties of the flu.
The drugs, which are already available for other uses, pamidronate and zoledronate, are sold by Novartis as Aredia and the widely-advertised Reclast.
If this works in human studies it could have tremendous implications because the flu is a virus and anti-viral drugs are very rare and expensive. In fact, these drugs do not attack the virus directly but are thought to act to prevent the cell from replicating more copies of the virus which also fights the infection.
The original journal report (“Phosphoantigen Expanded Human A A T Cells Display Potent Cytotoxicity against Monocyte Derived Macrophages Infected with Human and Avian Influenza Viruses,” Gang Qin, Huawei Mao, Jian Zheng, Sin Fun Sia, Yinping Liu, Ping ]Lung Chan, Kwok ]Tai Lam, J. S. Malik Peiris, Yu ]Lung Lau, and Wenwei Tu) published in The Journal of Infections Medicine, August 5, 2009, suggests that the drugs might be effective in treating the highly dangerous bird flu H5N1, as well as the currently mild but pandemic Type A H1N1 (swine flu.)
It is important to remember that this is an early study, not conducted in humans who actually have a flu infection and therefore may not prove to have any value in treating flu strains, however, it is an interesting result and is certain to be pursued vigorously.