Antiviral Therapy in Influenza: Decoding Scope of Oseltamivir

Antiviral Therapy in Influenza: Decoding Scope of Oseltamivir
Antiviral Therapy in Influenza: Decoding Scope of Oseltamivir

antifluadWe live in an age
where seasonal patterns, epidemics and pandemics are common phenomena. One such
rampant problem is Influenza (flu), which is contagious and is caused mainly by
Influenza A and Influenza B viruses. If not treated, it attacks an individual’s
respiratory tract, causing enormous morbidity and mortality.[1]

Global Prevalence and Pathogens Associated
with Flu

Influenza viruses are
members of the “Orthomyxoviridae” family, an RNA virus with various
antigenic properties.[1] These annual epidemics are predicted to cause 3 to 5
million episodes of severe disease and 290 000 to 650 000 respiratory deaths
worldwide. Influenza can cause significant work/school absenteeism and a dip in
productivity. During peak disease seasons, clinics and hospitals might become

Seasonal influenza
viruses are classified into four types: A, B, C, and D. The influenza A and B
viruses spread and produce seasonal outbreaks of sickness.

Influenza A viruses are further
categorised into subtypes based on the combinations of the proteins on the
virus’s surface, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). Subtypes A(H1N1)
and A(H3N2) influenza viruses circulate in humans. The A (H1N1) virus is also
known as A(H1N1) pdm09 since it caused the 2009 pandemic. Only Influenza A
viruses have been linked to pandemics.

There are no subtypes of Influenza B viruses. However, they can
be divided into lineages. The influenza type B viruses that are currently
circulating are either B/Yamagata or B/Victoria.

Influenza C virus is identified
less frequently and usually produces minor infections. Therefore, it is of no
significant public health concern.

Influenza D viruses typically
affect cattle and are not known to affect humans.[2]

Influenza Transmission and Clinical

The virus spreads from
person to person via respiratory droplets produced by coughing or sneezing.
Close contact (<1 m) with infected individuals makes infection contagious.
Individuals usually recover within a few days, but Influenza can cause
complications and even death, particularly in high-risk groups such as pregnant
women and those with underlying immunodeficiency. High fever, body soreness,
headache, severe malaise, dry cough, sore throat, and runny nose are among the
symptoms of influenza. Clinical
manifestations should be used to distinguish it from the common cold.[1]

Influenza Infections: Pathophysiology

Influenza is an acute
respiratory disease that causes upper respiratory tract and trachea
inflammation [3]. The influenza virus directly infects the respiratory tract or
damages the immune system response. Only the respiratory epithelium in humans
successfully cleaves the hemagglutinin (HA) molecule, resulting in infectious
virus particles. Virus transmission occurs through a
susceptible individual’s contact with aerosols or respiratory fomites from an
infected individual.[4]. Both neuraminidase and hemagglutinin are essential for
virulence since they are the primary targets of neutralising antibodies.
Hemagglutinin binds to epithelial cells in the respiratory tract, and
Neuraminidase breaks the bond that holds the virus together, allowing
the infection to spread. Their H and N proteins are responsible for identifying
influenza viruses. Influenza A virus is a genetically labile virus with a high
mutation rate. This causes significant alterations in antigenic and functional

Various factors,
including airway blockage, loss of alveolar structure, loss of lung epithelial
integrity due to direct epithelial cell death, and degradation of the essential
extracellular matrix, can cause the lung’s failure to fulfil its fundamental
gas exchange function.[4]

Decoding the Role of Oseltamivir in Influenza

Oseltamivir is a
prodrug of oseltamivir carboxylate, a sialic acid transition state analogue. It
is a potent, selective inhibitor of neuraminidases of the Influenza A and
Influenza B viruses. It has an antiviral spectrum and potency similar to
Zanamivir. It inhibits amantadine and rimantadine-resistant influenza A viruses
and can be helpful against some zanamivir-resistant variants. [5]

Oseltamivir: Clinical Pharmacological Profile

neuraminidase cleaves terminal sialic acid residues and destroys the receptors
recognised by viral hemagglutinin, which are present on the cell surface, in
progeny virions, and respiratory secretions. The enzymatic action is essential
for the release of viruses from infected cells. Interaction of oseltamivir
carboxylate with neuraminidase causes a conformational change within the
enzyme’s active site and inhibits its activity. Inhibition of neuraminidase
activity leads to viral aggregation at the cell surface and reduces virus
spread within the respiratory tract.[5]

carboxylate plasma concentrations were identified in volunteers within 30
minutes of oral oseltamivir treatment and peaked within 3 to 4 hours at a
steady state. Oseltamivir has a high oral bioavailability (79%) compared to an
intravenous dose of oseltamivir carboxylate, and food seems not to influence

Therapeutic Efficacy of Oseltamivir: Review of
Clinical Evidence

Several randomised,
double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have explored the use of Oseltamivir
for the prophylaxis and treatment of febrile Influenza.

For prophylaxis [6]

Many studies have
shown that oral administration of Oseltamivir 75 mg can act as a prophylaxis
and significantly reduces the development of naturally acquired Influenza.

Hayden et
al. compared the efficacy of Oseltamivir with the placebo in healthy
unvaccinated adults(18-65y). The study included 1559 patients, of which 519
patients were placed in the placebo group, 520 patients were given oseltamivir
75 mg OD for six weeks, and 520 patients were given oseltamivir 75 mg bid for 6
weeks. After six weeks, the protective efficacy (protection from
influenza-associated bronchitis, pneumonia or sinusitis) in the oseltamivir
group (75 mg OD and 75 mg bid) was 76% and 72% better than the placebo group,
respectively.Peters et
al. studied high-risk elderly people (>65 years), where 272 patients
were included in the placebo group, and 276 were given oseltamivir 75 mg OD for
six weeks. After six weeks, the protective efficacy (protection from
influenza-associated bronchitis, pneumonia or sinusitis) was 92% in the elderly
who received Oseltamivir.

For treatment

Adults: Several studies have
claimed that oral Oseltamivir reduces the duration and severity of naturally
acquired Influenza in patients when initiated at the early stage of infection
and lowers the likelihood of secondary complications compared with a placebo.[6]

Treanor et al. studied 629 healthy
non-immunized adults aged 18-65 with febrile respiratory illness of no more
than 36 hours. They included 129 subjects in the placebo group, 124 were given
Oseltamivir 75 mg bid, and 121 patients were given Oseltamivir 150 mg bid for
five days. The primary endpoints were the duration of the illness and the
severity of the illness. The study concluded that the duration of illness was
reduced by 30% in both the oseltamivir group of 75 mg bid and 150 mg bid
(median, 71.5 hours; P < .001, median 69.9 hours; P= 0.006, respectively)
than the placebo group (median, 103.3 hours). The severity of illness was also
reduced by 38% (median score, 597 score-hours; P < .001) with Oseltamivir 75
mg bid and by 35% (median score, 626 score hours; P< .001) with Oseltamivir
150 mg bid when compared to placebo (median score, 963 score-hours).[7]Nicholson et al. conducted a randomised
controlled trial of 726 previously healthy non-immunised adults with a febrile
influenza-like illness of up to 36 h duration. They included 238 subjects in
the placebo group, 243 subjects were given oseltamivir 75 mg bid and 245
subjects were given oseltamivir 150 mg bid. The primary endpoint of the study
was the duration of illness. The study concluded that the duration of illness
was significantly shorter by 29 h (25% reduction, median duration 87·4 h [95%
Cl 73·3–104·7], p=0·02) with Oseltamivir 75 mg and by 35 h (30%, 81·8 h
[68·2–100·0], p=0·01) with oseltamivir 150 mg compared with placebo (116·5 h
[101·5–137·8]). [8]

Children: Evidence has
demonstrated that Oseltamivir also effectively treats children suffering from

In a randomised, double-blind study of 452
children aged 1 to 12 years infected with influenza A (67%) or B (33%), a
liquid formulation of Oseltamivir (2 mg/kg twice daily for five days) reduced
the median duration of illness by 1.5 days (p <0.0001) and severity of
illness by 29% (AUC 960 vs 1358 score; p <0.002). [6]

Points to remember

Influenza is a viral disease that primarily
affects the respiratory system and significantly decreases the quality of life
and productivity.Influenza A and B subtypes are prevalent and
produce seasonal outbreaks of illnessOseltamivir is a potent drug that could
produce beneficial effects if given within 48 hrs of the onset of the flu.Many clinical trials and studies have proved
the patient benefit (adults and children) of oseltamivir in influenza. hence it
can be used as both prophylactic and treatment options in susceptible or
infected patients. When administered early in the course of an
infection, oseltamivir reduces the duration and severity of naturally acquired
influenza in patients and the likelihood of secondary complications.


1. Moghadami M. A Narrative Review
of Influenza: A Seasonal and Pandemic Disease. Iran J Med Sci. 2017
Jan;42(1):2-13. PMID: 28293045; PMCID: PMC5337761.

2. World Health Organization. (2023). Influenza (Seasonal). Retrieved 2nd March 2023 from

3. Boktor SW, Hafner JW. Influenza.
[Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL):
StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

4. Kalil AC, Thomas PG. Influenza
virus-related critical illness: pathophysiology and epidemiology. Crit
Care. 2019 Jul 19;23(1):258. doi: 10.1186/s13054-019-2539-x. PMID:
31324202; PMCID: PMC6642581.

5. Goodman, L. S., Gilman, A.,
Hardman, J. G., Gilman, A. G., & Limbird, L. E. (1996). Goodman &
Gilman’s the pharmacological basis of therapeutics (9th ed.). New York:
McGraw-Hill, Health Professions Division.

6. McClellan, K., Perry, C.M.
Oseltamivir. Drugs 61, 263–283 (2001).

7. Treanor JJ, Hayden FG, Vrooman
PS, Barbarash R, Bettis R, Riff D, Singh S, Kinnersley N, Ward P, Mills
RG. Efficacy and safety of the oral neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir in
treating acute influenza: a randomized controlled trial. US Oral
Neuraminidase Study Group. JAMA. 2000 Feb 23;283(8):1016-24. doi:
10.1001/jama.283.8.1016. PMID: 10697061.

8. KG Nicholson, FY Aoki, ADME
Osterhaus, S Trottier, O Carewicz, CH Mercier, A Rode, N Kinnersley, P
Ward, Efficacy and safety of oseltamivir in treatment of acute influenza:
a randomized controlled trial, The Lancet, Volume 355, Issue 9218, 2000,
Pages 1845-1850, ISSN 0140-6736

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