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Fear of flu pandemic boosts pharmaceutical company's stock price
Margery Dunn

As a result of recent lab tests showing that the flu drug Relenza is effective against bird flu in humans, the shares in the pharmaceutical research company Biota Holdings have surged 50 per cent.

The Melbourne, Australia-based biotechnology company also had their shares bolstered in April 2003 during the SARS outbreak, with a jump of 20 per cent.

Laboratory tests by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization have shown Relenza can prevent transmission of the H5N1 influenza virus and reduce symptoms.

Relenza was launched five years ago and went nowhere, but has surged with current fears of human flu pandemics.

Despite the fact that the drug emerged from a 20-year research program, human clinical trials must be conducted before the drug can be confirmed as effective against bird flu.

According to a World Health Organization official, it may take a year to eradicate the bird flu; birds surviving the infection excrete the virus for at least 10 days.

Uncovering a possible treatment for the deadly bird flu virus in humans could see many Asian nations stockpiling Relenza, and the possible consideration of another flu drug, Tamiflu, now being tested by CSIRO.

Note: The bird flu first crossed into humans in 1997 in Hong Kong.

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