Unraveling the Science Behind the Development and Effectiveness of Antiviral Drugs

Drugs that combat viral infections are called antiviral agents. Antiviral treatment is one of the most exciting aspects of virology since it has successfully employed basic science to discover very effective treatments for serious viral infections. These medications can protect you from getting viral infections or spreading a virus to others. The article briefly overviews drug discovery, development, and effectiveness.

Viral infections pose a serious public health threat globally. It has been estimated that viruses are responsible for around two million death every year. Different viruses exist, but only five thousand have been determined and characterized. These viruses enter the human body through various routes, including the eyes, nose, mouth, and skin. Hepatitis virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), and coronaviruses are major viruses associated with a large amount of human mortality. Moreover, the effects of the viral outbreak also affect other areas of life, such as economic and social disruptions. 

Different types of viruses are transmitted and replicated in different ways and cause different diseases of varying severity. Antiviral meds are often chosen to target non-structural proteins involved in viral replication. 

Antiviral medications are a class of medications particularly used for treating viral infections. These are prescription medicines (tablets, an inhaled powder, liquids, or an intravenous solution) that fight against viruses in the body. Antiviral treatment ease symptoms and shorten the length of a viral infection. They also reduce the risk of getting or spreading viruses that causes herpes and HIV.

Viral Infection Medicines: Treatment options for managing viral infections

The development of antivirals 

Vaccination is a common treatment strategy to inhibit viral infections; however, there are many important viruses for which effective vaccines are currently unavailable. Another popular strategy to reduce the burden of viral disease is using oral antiviral medicines. Only a few antiviral drugs have been approved by the FDA or Food and Drug Administration for treating infection in humans. There is a great need for these medications with increased potency and decreased toxicity and drugs to treat viral conditions for which no oral medicine or vaccine is currently available. Various antiviral medications are available that disrupt viral infection and replication, thus reducing the clinical severity of an infection. For example, indinavir, maraviroc, entecavir, adefovir, lamivudine, tenofovir, ribavirin, foscarnet, enfuvirtide, abacavir, and interferons are commonly used in treating infections caused by the virus. Despite their antiviral activity, numerous challenges limit the effectiveness of many existing antiviral agents, including their potential to cause side effects or toxicity and the development of drug-resistant viruses.   

How do antiviral drugs work?

Antiviral tablets act differently depending on the drug and virus. Antiviral works in three ways:

    1. Boost the immune system, helping it to fight against viral infection.  
    2. Block receptors so viruses are unable to adhere to and enter healthy cells. 
    3. Reduce the viral load in the body.  

Can antiviral agents cure viral infections?

Antiviral agents can lower symptoms and shorten the period you are sick with viral infections like flu and coronavirus. They can help your body to get rid of these viruses. Viral infections like hepatitis, herpes, and HIV are chronic. Antiviral agents can’t eliminate the virus which stays in your body. However, these medications can make the virus inactive, so you have few symptoms. Signs and symptoms you develop while taking antiviral medications may be less severe or go away faster. 

How effective are antivirals in preventing the spread of viral infections?

Antiviral medications keep you from getting a viral infection after a known or suspected exposure. Taking specific antiviral agents:

    • Daily lowers the risk of giving HIV or herpes to others or getting HIV from an infected partner. 
    • During pregnancy reduces the risk of a mother transferring HIV to her newborn.  
    • Within 48 hours of exposure to the flu virus may keep you from getting sick.
    • Within 72 hours of HIV exposure can reduce the risk of getting infected.  

How can I take antiviral medications?

Most antiviral agents are oral medications that you swallow. But you may also get antiviral agents such as:

    • Inhaled powder
    • Eyedrops
    • Intravenous into a vein
    • Injection into a muscle
    • Topical creams and ointments 

Who shouldn’t take antiviral drugs?

Antiviral agents are generally well tolerated. Children as young as two weeks and pregnant and breastfeeding women can take certain medications. It is important to stay in contact with the doctor to reduce the risk of antiviral side effects. Your doctor can identify whether an antiviral medication is safe for you. 

What are the side effects?

Antiviral medication side effects depend on the drug type and strength. You may experience cough diarrhoea, fatigue, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, skin rash, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Let your doctor know if any of these side effects of antiviral drugs become severe or don’t resolve independently. 

The bottom line!

Medicines that combat viral infection are called antivirals. Antiviral agents for people with chronic viral infections stop the virus replication in the body responsible for causing problems. Some antivirals were licensed for the treatment of viral infections. Taking antivirals for a long duration or failing to use them as prescribed can lead to antiviral resistance. 

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