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Another way of treating viral infections is the use of antiviral drugs. These drugs often have limited ability to cure viral disease but have been used to control and reduce symptoms for a wide variety of viral diseases. For most viruses, these drugs inhibit the virus by blocking the actions of one or more of its proteins. It is important that the targeted proteins be encoded for by viral genes and that these molecules are not present in a healthy host cell. In this way, viral growth is inhibited without damaging the host. There are large numbers of antiviral drugs available to treat infections, some specific for a particular virus and others that can affect multiple viruses.

Antivirals have been developed to treat genital herpes (herpes simplex II) and influenza. For genital herpes, drugs such as acyclovir can reduce the number and duration of the episodes of active viral disease during which patients develop viral lesions in their skins cells. As the virus remains latent in nervous tissue of the body for life, this drug is not a cure but can make the symptoms of the disease more manageable. For influenza, drugs like Tamiflu can reduce the duration of “flu” symptoms by one or two days, but the drug does not prevent symptoms entirely. Other antiviral drugs, such as Ribavirin, have been used to treat a variety of viral infections.

By far the most successful use of antivirals has been in the treatment of the retrovirus HIV, which causes a disease that, if untreated, is usually fatal within 10–12 years after being infected. Anti-HIV drugs have been able to control viral replication to the point that individuals receiving these drugs survive for a significantly longer time than the untreated.

Anti-HIV drugs inhibit viral replication at many different phases of the HIV replicative cycle. Drugs have been developed that inhibit the fusion of the HIV viral envelope with the plasma membrane of the host cell (fusion inhibitors), the conversion of its RNA genome to double-stranded DNA (reverse transcriptase inhibitors), the integration of the viral DNA into the host genome (integrase inhibitors), and the processing of viral proteins (protease inhibitors).

When any of these drugs are used individually, the virus’ high mutation rate allows the virus to rapidly evolve resistance to the drug. The breakthrough in the treatment of HIV was the development of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), which involves a mixture of different drugs, sometimes called a drug “cocktail.” By attacking the virus at different stages of its replication cycle, it is difficult for the virus to develop resistance to multiple drugs at the same time. Still, even with the use of combination HAART therapy, there is concern that, over time, the virus will evolve resistance to this therapy. Thus, new anti-HIV drugs are constantly being developed with the hope of continuing the battle against this highly fatal virus.

Section summary

Viruses are acellular entities that can usually only be seen with an electron microscope. Their genomes contain either DNA or RNA, and they replicate using the replication proteins of a host cell. Viruses are diverse, infecting archaea, bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. Viruses consist of a nucleic-acid core surrounded by a protein capsid with or without an outer lipid envelope.

Viral replication within a living cell always produces changes in the cell, sometimes resulting in cell death and sometimes slowly killing the infected cells. There are six basic stages in the virus replication cycle: attachment, penetration, uncoating, replication, assembly, and release. A viral infection may be productive, resulting in new virions, or nonproductive, meaning the virus remains inside the cell without producing new virions.

Viruses cause a variety of diseases in humans. Many of these diseases can be prevented by the use of viral vaccines, which stimulate protective immunity against the virus without causing major disease. Viral vaccines may also be used in active viral infections, boosting the ability of the immune system to control or destroy the virus. Antiviral drugs that target enzymes and other protein products of viral genes have been developed and used with mixed success. Combinations of anti-HIV drugs have been used to effectively control the virus, extending the lifespan of infected individuals.

Art connections

[link] Which of the following statements about virus structure is true?

  1. All viruses are encased in a viral membrane.
  2. The capsomere is made up of small protein subunits called capsids.
  3. DNA is the genetic material in all viruses.
  4. Glycoproteins help the virus attach to the host cell.

[link] D

[link] Influenza virus is packaged in a viral envelope, which fuses with the plasma membrane. This way, the virus can exit the host cell without killing it. What advantage does the virus gain by keeping the host cell alive?

[link] The host cell can continue to make new virus particles.

Questions & Answers

use the y -intercept and slope to sketch the graph of the equation y=6x
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x+2y-z=7
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-1
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An investment account was opened with an initial deposit of $9,600 and earns 7.4% interest, compounded continuously. How much will the account be worth after 15 years?
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lim x to infinity e^1-e^-1/log(1+x)
given eccentricity and a point find the equiation
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12, 17, 22.... 25th term
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12, 17, 22.... 25th term
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find the 15th term of the geometric sequince whose first is 18 and last term of 387
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The given of f(x=x-2. then what is the value of this f(3) 5f(x+1)
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If f(x) = x-2 then, f(3) when 5f(x+1) 5((3-2)+1) 5(1+1) 5(2) 10
Augustine
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Source:  OpenStax, University of georgia concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. May 28, 2013 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11526/1.2
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