You know all that delicious Tamiflu we humans have been taking in order to reduce our suffering as various strains of regular, swine, and bird flu fly around the globe? Yeah, um, turns out that it doesn’t break down in our bodies and can’t be removed by water treatment plants. The combination of Tamiflu-polluted waters and wild birds may result in resistant strains of avian flu.
While not as catastrophically deadly as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resistant flus could still be bad news.
Once ingested, virtually all Tamiflu will end up in the environment in the active form, notes environmental chemist Jerker Fick of Umeå University in Sweden. The reason: Tamiflu becomes active once the body converts it into a carboxylate form. Roughly 80 percent of an ingested dose becomes this OC, which the body eventually excretes. The body sheds the remaining 20 percent of Tamiflu in its original form, but this phosphate form is immediately turned into the active, carboxylate form when it reaches a water treatment plant, he says.
Two years ago, Fick’s team published data showing that most sewage-treatment technologies will remove “zero percent” of any OC present. And ducks love hanging out around warm, nutrient-rich outflows of treated water during winter-flu season. While sampling for waterborne OC last year in Japan, “I saw it myself,” he says.
You heard it here first: stay away from the flu-resistant superducks.
Excreted Tamiflu found in rivers [Science News] (Thanks, Kelly!)