WHO Rapid Advice Guidelines for pharmacological management of sporadic human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) virus
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Recent spread of avian influenza A (H5N1) virus to poultry and wild birds has increased the threat of human infections with H5N1 virus worldwide. Despite international agreement to stockpile antivirals, evidence-based guidelines for their use do not exist. WHO assembled an international multidisciplinary panel to develop rapid advice for the pharmacological management of human H5N1 virus infection in the current pandemic alert period. A transparent methodological guideline process on the basis of the Grading Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach was used to develop evidence-based guidelines. Our development of specific recommendations for treatment and chemoprophylaxis of sporadic H5N1 infection resulted from the benefits, harms, burden, and cost of interventions in several patient and exposure groups. Overall, the quality of the underlying evidence for all recommendations was rated as very low because it was based on small case series of H5N1 patients, on extrapolation from preclinical studies, and high quality studies of seasonal influenza. A strong recommendation to treat H5N1 patients with oseltamivir was made in part because of the severity of the disease. Similarly, strong recommendations were made to use neuraminidase inhibitors as chemoprophylaxis in high-risk exposure populations. Emergence of other novel influenza A viral subtypes with pandemic potential, or changes in the pathogenicity of H5N1 virus strains, will require an update of these guidelines and WHO will be monitoring this closely.
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