Influenza treatment drug, 'Relenza Zanamivir', made by GlaxoSmithKline Pty Ltd, Australia, 2004
Antibiotics cannot treat the influenza virus. Often when people say they have the 'flu', what they actually have is an upper respiratory bacterial infection. Influenza, a viral infection, is much more serious. Zanamivir, an Australian innovation in medicine, was the first of a new class of drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors. These drugs are a first line of defence against all strains of influenza virus. Once a new virus emerges it takes about six months to develop a vaccine, so neuraminidase inhibitors can slow the spread of infection and reduce morbidity and mortality in the early stages of an epidemic.