Observational data suggest that the treatment of influenza infection with neuraminidase inhibitors decreases progression to more severe illness, especially when treatment is started soon after symptom onset. However, even early treatment might fail to prevent complications in some patients, particularly those infected with novel viruses such as the 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1, avian influenza A H5N1 virus subtype, or the avian influenza A H7N9 virus subtype. Furthermore, treatment with one antiviral drug might promote the development of antiviral resistance, especially in immunocompromised hosts and critically ill patients. An obvious strategy to optimise antiviral therapy is to combine drugs with different modes of action. Because host immune responses to infection might also contribute to illness pathogenesis, improved outcomes might be gained from the combination of antiviral therapy with drugs that modulate the immune response in an infected individual. We review available data from preclinical and clinical studies of combination antiviral therapy and of combined antiviral-immunomodulator therapy for influenza. Early-stage data draw attention to several promising antiviral combinations with therapeutic potential in severe infections, but there remains a need to substantiate clinical benefit. Combination therapies with favourable experimental data need to be tested in carefully designed aclinical trials to assess their efficacy.
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