Merck Manual

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Antiviral Drugs
Antiviral Drugs
Antiviral Drugs

    Viruses are infectious agents that enter and replicate within healthy cells. In order for the virus to attach, receptors on the virus must bind to receptors on the outside of the healthy cell. This allows the viral membrane to fuse with the cell membrane and release the genetic material used in viral replication.

    Once the virus replicates inside the cell, it may remain dormant for long periods of time or be released immediately and attach to other healthy cells to begin the infection process again.

    Many diseases are caused by viruses such as the flu, chicken pox, hepatitis, and HIV. While they differ in symptoms such as fever and weakness, some present no symptoms at all.

    The potential for recovery depends on the type of virus. Viruses may cause harm and if left untreated potentially death.

    Antiviral drugs work by stopping the infection process. Depending on the virus and medicine, the blocking of the process can occur at many different locations. One drug prevents the virus from fusing to the healthy cell by blocking a receptor that helps bind the virus to the cell. By preventing this attachment, the viruses cannot enter or infect the cell.

    Sometimes multiple drugs are used to treat a particular infection, so that more than one viral process is disrupted and the chances for the patient’s recovery from the infection are improved.

    While some viral infections such as hepatitis or HIV cannot be fully cured, a patient’s state of health can be returned to normal by controlling the virus and preventing further harm to the body.

    Always consult a doctor before starting treatment or making any changes to your current therapy.