By Emily Campbell

How Does Tamiflu Work?

The neuraminidase coating on the influenza virus surface enables the virus to chemically dissolve a pathway through the cell membranes of the human body cells. By doing so it effectively invades the cells. Once in the cell it replicates to form many new virus molecules. The new viruses leave the cell, using the neuraminidase to break through the cell membrane, and invade adjoining cells in the same way. The membrane of the cell they have left behind is broken and as a result the cell itself dies. This process is repeated and an efficient chain reaction is set up.


Hoffman La Roche

Once a number of cells have been affected, the patient would begin to experience flu symptoms such as headaches and fevers etc. Tamiflu binds to the neuraminidase on the surface of the virus particles and hence inhibits the new viral particles' chemical ability to escape from the infected cell. Hence the influenza virus is restricted to a smaller number of cells and the body's immune system has a better chance of killing the virus.

Tamiflu is only able to inhibit the virus. There comes a point when the number of infected cells is too large for the tamiflu to work effectively therefore it must be taken as early as possible