As winter draws near, expect to see your local GP suddenly becoming more popular in the neighborhood. Patients with runny noses, high temperatures, endless sneezing, and more of the like will flock to the clinic; they seek a magic pill to make it all go away: antibiotics.

What many are not aware of is that taking antibiotics while battling the influenza virus — or flu, as known to most of us — does not solve the problem, but rather makes it worse by enabling antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria but the flu is caused by viruses.

At least 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. outpatient setting is redundant. This is where the new antiviral drug comes in.

A promising study by the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University may just have broken ground in the fight against the flu with a new antiviral drug. It works by inhibiting an important enzyme in the virus known as RNA polymerase which is responsible for replicating the viral genome. Doing so will mutate the genome, causing the virus to "malfunction" and be unable to replicate.

"The compound is highly efficacious against influenza," said Dr. Richard Plemper, senior author of the study and a professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences. "It's orally available, it's broad spectrum against all influenza virus strains tested, and most important it establishes a high barrier against viral escape from inhibition."

The antiviral drug was tested in ferrets successfully against several strains that include seasonal and pandemic viruses, such as a swine-origin influenza virus of the 2009 pandemic. These strains were unable to replicate when met with the new drug. Their viral concentrations dropped, and the duration of fever shortened, in contrast to ferrets that did not receive the treatment.

"We think that the next generation of influenza antiviral drugs must not only be efficacious and safe, but also address the resistance problem," said Dr. Mart Toots, first author of the study and a research assistant professor associated with Dr. Plemper's lab in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences.

To acknowledge this issue, Toots and Dr. Alex Greninger at the University of Washington worked in collaboration to come up with a way to make it very difficult for the virus to bypass the drug without detriment to itself.

influenza Influenza gets a foothold in the respiratory tract but can make a person feel bad all over. Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com