Utah study group tests new weapon in flu battle

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah victims of influenza are testing a new inhaled flu drug that uses a completely different mechanism to stop the flu virus in its tracks.

Current anti-viral drugs interrupt chemicals in the respiratory cells, preventing the virus from escaping and infecting other cells. But this new investigational mist pulls off a first-line attack.

According to Dr. James Peterson, who oversees the clinical trials at Salt Lake's Foothill Family Clinic, "This study drug has a different target. It's going after the mechanism that allows the virus to attach itself to the cell, which means the virus can't get in in the first place. This is a new approach and it's one reason the compound is on a fast track with the government and others who are supporting the research."

We're seeing a surprising number of patients who were vaccinated and are still affected by the virus. We think the vaccine is not a perfect match with strains that are coming through the area.

–Dr. James Peterson

The drug is crushed then inhaled within 48 hours after the first symptoms appear. Each volunteer must test positive for influenza. They return to the clinic each day for three separate doses and follow-up exams.

Tiffany Alger was infected with influenza A even though she had her flu shot. Dr. Peterson says that's becoming a common problem.

"We're seeing a surprising number of patients who were vaccinated and are still affected by the virus," said Peterson. "We think the vaccine is not a perfect match with strains that are coming through the area."

Alger says she noticed improvement after the first dose on the new drug. "Last night after my first dosing, my cough had improved as well as the irritation in my chest," she said.

Patient Jim Brown also noticed a slight improvement. "My symptoms began with a fever and a bad cough. I had body aches and a terrible headache," he said.

After three doses, Derek Peterson dramatically recovered. He was really sick. In fact initially, he could hardly make it to north Foothill Clinic for his first treatment.

"I mean I curled up in a ball in a fetal position - just miserable," he said. "I was like that the entire first day."

Dr. Peterson says physicians unfortunately are seeing more resistant strains of influenza each year and there's a need for a new attack drug like this one that actually blocks the virus from entering the cells. It appears to work against a variety of influenzas, including the Avian Flu and the so-called para-influenza bugs. Since the compound is a derivative from natural human flora, the mist produces no allergic reactions.

Foothill Study
For the Foothill Study, both north and south clinics, call:
or 801-381-5642 (cell)

If these third-stage clinical trials prove out, the FDA could approve the compound within the year under its "fast track" program. If so, this would become an effective tool in a growing new arsenal to attack the virus.

But as good at it looks, Dr. Peterson warns the seasonal flu shot should still and always remain our first line of defense.


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