Developing Antiviral Therapies to Cure HIV and AIDS


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Developing Antiviral Therapies to Cure HIV and AIDS

When the disease called aids was first discovered to be a virus in the 80’s, many pharmacies prepared for this widely spread disease by stocking up on antibiotics. These antibiotics however, were only designed to treat bacterial infections. It was at this time that scientist discovered that this disease was actually caused by a virus and not bacteria. Because the AIDS virus was so widely spread it prompted scientists to search for a way to cure diseases that were caused by viruses. We have since been in the process of discovering antiviral therapies that would cure HIV which is the cause of AIDS. In doing so, we have not only tripped upon ways to treat AIDS we may have also discovered ways to treat other viruses too.
One of these new developments is called viral genomics
Which basically makes sense of the sequence of nucleic acids in a viruses genetic code. This order of nucleic acids form the code for viral proteins that are basically the working parts of the viruses and control the virus. With this information scientists are able to learn how the individual viruses are able to cause disease in humans such as AIDS. Once the virus is decoded, scientists are then able to use computers to compare the virus to other viruses. This allows us to identify molecules in the virus that are worth targeting. There are stages that every virus must go through in order for it to infect the cell. During these steps the virus is extremely vulnerable and can be disrupted by pharmaceuticals. The first stage of the virus undergoes is binding. Binding is when the virus attaches to the cell and allows the virus do what is called fusion . This is when the virus and the cell membrane fuse, allowing the virus into the cell. Once the virus is in the cell, it then uncoats itself freeing viral genes and enzymes. After the uncoating stage the virus then goes through the fourth stage, called reverse transcription, in this stage copies of viral RNA and DNA are produced. Once the DNA is copied it then enters the nucleus of the cell and undergoes what is called genome integration where the viral integrase splices viral DNA into cellular DNA. Once the cellular DNA is made, the cell then uses the new DNA as a template for reproducing the HIV RNA genome.

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Once this occurs the cell then goes through protein synthesis where the cell uses HIV RNA as a template for synthesizing viral proteins. The next step is called protein cleavage where protease enzyme cuts long protein chain into individual proteins so it can be shipped back out of the cell as new viral particles. Now they are free to infect other cells using the same procedure each time.
With the use of antiviral scientists hope to disrupt the virus in any of the stages it must go through to infect the cell. If any of the stages were disrupted the virus would not be able to complete its task. Today most all of the antiviral treatments focus on HIV. This is widely due to the fact that is responsible for infecting more than 250,000 people a year in the U.S alone. Over a million in other countries. Clearly there is a very high demand for such a treatment and as the years go on even more people will be in search for this treatment. Although studies of antiviral therapies are not complete, it is safe to say we are on the brink of many new developments in the world of antiviral medications. Now that we are able to fully understand the genome of viruses we are surely going to be able to understand more about viral diseases , how to treat them and may even be able to prevent them.
“HIV infection worldwide has taken on gigantic pyramidal proportions. For every case of full-blown AIDS there are estimated to be 50-100 HIV positive asymptomatic individuals”. Clearly there is a need for a cure to this very deadly and widely spreading disease. To many, these new studies may offer some hope to the many individuals who have recently been diagnosed with HIV or any other viral disease. To say the least this is a gigantic step forward in the world of medicine.


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