A new drug has been proven to be effective in preventing the spread of different strains of influenza in laboratory models - including resistant strains of the virus, Australian top science institute CSIRO said on Friday.
The breakthrough, published in Science, is the result of a global collaboration between scientists from the CSIRO, the University of British Columbia and the University of Bath.
CSIRO scientist Dr Jenny McKimm-Breschkin, a researcher in the team that developed the first flu drug Relenza, said that understanding exactly how flu viruses become resistant to drugs has helped them to design a better flu drug.
"The new drug is effective against these resistant strains. As the site where the drug binds is found in all flu strains, the new drug is expected to be effective even against future flu strains.
"With millions of poultry currently infected with 'bird flu' globally, there are still concerns about its adaptation and potential to spread among humans, causing the next pandemic," she added.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), influenza kills approximately 500,000 people each year, with up to 2,500 of those deaths occurring in Australia.
Although it is hoped the drug will be effective against future strains of the flu virus, the scientists indicate it will be seven years before it is available to the public.