Oseltamivir-zanamivir combination therapy suppresses drug-resistant H1N1 influenza A viruses in the hollow fiber infection model (HFIM) system

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Drug-resistant influenza is a significant threat to global public health. Until new antiviral agents with novel mechanisms of action become available, there is a pressing need for alternative treatment strategies with available influenza antivirals. Our aims were to evaluate the antiviral activity of two neuraminidase inhibitors (oseltamivir and zanamivir) as combination therapy against H1N1 influenza A viruses, as these agents bind to the neuraminidase active site differently: oseltamivir requires a conformational change for binding whereas zanamivir does not. We performed pharmacodynamic studies in the hollow fiber infection model (HFIM) system with oseltamivir (75 mg Q12h, t1/2: 8 h) and zanamivir (600 mg Q12h, t1/2: 2.5 h), given as mono- or combination therapy, against viruses with varying susceptibilities to oseltamivir and zanamivir. Each antiviral suppressed the replication of influenza strains which were resistant to the other neuraminidase inhibitor, showing each drug does not engender cross-resistance to the other compound. Oseltamivir/zanamivir combination therapy was as effective at suppressing oseltamivir- and zanamivir-resistant influenza viruses and the combination regimen inhibited viral replication at a level that was similar to the most effective monotherapy arm. However, combination therapy offered a clear benefit by preventing the emergence and spread of drug-resistant viruses. These findings demonstrate that combination therapy with two agents that target the same viral protein through distinctly different binding interactions is a feasible strategy to combat resistance emergence. This is a novel finding that may be applicable to other viral and non-viral diseases for which different classes of agents do not exist.

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