Study: Human drug effective in eagles infected with bird flu

A team led by a Japanese researcher says an influenza drug designed for human use is effective in treating endangered eagles infected with bird flu.

Many birds die after contracting avian influenza. The researchers said it is the world's first case of successfully treating wild birds suffering from the disease.

The team, led by Hokkaido University Professor Sakoda Yoshihiro, administered antiviral drug baloxavir marboxil, marketed as Xofluza, to 10 white-tailed eagles and a Hodgson's hawk eagle that have contracted bird flu.

The birds were given the drug once a day until they tested negative for the virus.

Of the birds, seven white-tailed eagles survived. The researchers added that in the longest case, it took about 40 days before the virus disappeared.

The researchers said administering the drug widely to domestic fowls would risk triggering the emergence of drug-resistant viruses.

But the risk may be smaller in cases involving endangered birds, as the total number of doses would be lower.

In Hokkaido, northern Japan, a record 70 cases of wild birds contracting highly pathogenic bird flu were confirmed from last fall through this spring.

Professor Sakoda said he hopes the human drug can be used to treat endangered birds and help preserve their populations.