Influenza: A case study
Influenza: A case study

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Influenza: A case study

4 Antiviral treatments

Two classes of antiviral drugs are used to combat influenza: neuraminidase inhibitors and M2 protein inhibitors.

  • Why are antibiotics not used to combat influenza?

  • Influenza is a virus. Antibiotics only work against bacteria.

Neuraminidase inhibitors

Recall from Section 2.1 that neuraminidase is an enzyme that is present on the virus envelope and cleaves sialic acid groups found in the polysaccharide coating of many cells (especially the mucus coating of the respiratory tract). Neuraminidase is used to clear a path for the virus to a host cell and facilitates the shedding of virions from an infected cell. Inhibition of neuraminidase therefore helps prevent the spread of virus within a host and its shedding to infect other hosts.

The two main neuraminidase inhibitors currently in clinical use are zanamivir (trade name Relenza) and oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu). These are effective against influenza A and B, but not influenza C which exhibits a different type of neuraminidase activity that only cleaves 9-O-acetylated sialic acid.

M2 inhibitors

Recall from Table 1 that the influenza M2 protein forms a pore that allows protons into the capsid, acidifying the interior and facilitating uncoating.

Drugs such as amantadine (trade name Symmetrel) and rimantadine (trade name Flumadine) block this pore, preventing uncoating and infection. However, their indiscriminate use in ‘over-the-counter’ cold remedies and farmed poultry has allowed many strains of influenza to develop resistance. Influenza B has a different type of M2 protein which is largely unaffected by these drugs.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371