Oseltamivir phosphate is the active ingredient found in the prescription-only influenza treatment Tamiflu. It is an anti-viral medication and works to slow down the spread of the influenza virus within the body. It is used to treat influenza A and influenza B, and most recently was used to treat the 2009 pandemic of swine flu.
Oseltamivir can both treat and prevent the onset of the flu virus if taken within a specific period. It is considered to be a pro-drug, which means that the active ingredient is actually inactive until it is taken. When it is released into the body, it is converted into its active form through the metabolic processes within the body.
Oseltamivir is a neuraminidase inhibitor. Neuraminidase is an enzyme in the body that can help spread the flu virus from one healthy cell to another. Influenza is an extremely contagious airborne virus that affects the lungs and airways. It is transmitted through the air when people talk, cough or sneeze. The flu virus can also survive on surfaces for anything from a few minutes up to 48 hours and is therefore easily contracted through normal everyday contact.
The flu virus enters the nose and mouth and moves into the airways and lungs. It invades cells and infects them in the process. When it invades healthy cells, it also replicates itself to form many new copies of the influenza virus. These copies leave the infected cells and move on to infect more cells. Within a day or two, the virus will have infected all the cells it can. After enough cells are infected with flu, you will start to experience symptoms.
When the influenza virus travels from cell to cell, it uses the neuraminidase enzyme to help it infiltrate healthy cells to infect. It needs new healthy cells to replicate and multiply. Oseltamivir is a neuraminidase inhibitor, which means that it inhibits the neuraminidase from helping the spread of the flu virus within the body. It binds with the neuraminidase and prevents the influenza virus from doing so. Without this, the influenza cells cannot spread and infect the body further. In this contained state, it’s much easier for the body to cope with the infection, so that recovery is reduced by up to two days.
If the influenza virus manages to infect enough cells, or too many cells, this treatment will be ineffective at treating the flu. Oseltamivir needs to be taken at the right time. In order for it to work effectively at treating the symptoms of flu, it must be taken within 48 hours of you noticing the early signs of an infection. To prevent the onset of flu, it must be taken within 48 hours of you being in contact with an infected person and if you think that you may have been infected.
If you fall within a flu risk group, it might be worth speaking to your doctor about the use of Oseltamivir to ensure that you are prepared. People that are considered to be most likely to develop side effects as a result of influenza are the elderly, young children, people with existing lung conditions and people with deficient immune systems.