How antiviral drugs work

Published at: 16.02.2022 08:54

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Antiviral drugs work by helping your body fight off detrimental viruses. These medications have the ability to ease symptoms and even shorten the sickness period of a viral infection. Antiviral drugs can also lower the risk of getting infected or spreading viruses. In this article, we are going to explain to you how the antiviral work exactly.

What are viruses?

In order to explain how antiviral medicine works inside your body, we need to tell you what viruses are first. They are microscopic infectious particles that have the ability to grow and spread inside the living cells of an organism. 

A virus has many receptors which they use to attach to healthy cells in your body and you become their host. Once it binds itself to a host cell, it can start to clone itself. In this process, the host cell dies, and the virus starts to infect other healthy cells.

There are times when viruses remain inside the host cell but don't start replicating or damaging it. In this situation, the virus is still there, but you won't exhibit any symptoms, but you can still be contagious. Such state of a virus is called latent, or inactive, 

however, it can become active at any time and start causing symptoms or infect others. Different viruses spread in different ways, through: 

  • Contaminated bodily products, such as saliva, urine, blood, feces, vomit, and semen.
  • Bug bites -  when a virus transfers from a bug’s saliva into a person’s blood.
  • Skin-on-skin contact, which includes sexual intercourse.

How do antiviral drugs work?

Antiviral medicines work in different ways depending on the virus type and drug. Antivirals work by:

  • Blocking receptors inside your body, so that viruses aren't able to bind to healthy cells or enter them.
  • Boosting your immune system, which helps with fighting off a viral infection.
  • Lowering the viral load, which is the number of active virus agents inside the body.

Are antivirals able to cure viral infections?

Antiviral medications have the ability to ease symptoms and shorten the duration of a viral infection, like the flu and Ebola. They can cleanse your body of viruses. However, some of them, like HIV, hepatitis, and herpes are chronic, which means that antiviral drugs can’t destroy the virus and it stays inside your body. Nevertheless, antivirals are able to make the virus latent (inactive), which will lower or even stop all symptoms. 

How can you take antiviral drugs?

Most antiviral medicines are oral drugs that you swallow, but there are other ways to receive them as well, such as:

  • Via Eyedrops.
  • Via Injection into a muscle.
  • Via Inhaled powder.
  • Via IV into a vein.
  • Via skiN ointments or creams.

Typically a doctor will prescribe to you one of these options that will best work for you in a certain situation.

For what period of time do you need to take antiviral drugs?

The duration of the treatment is different in every case and it depends on which antiviral drug you will be using and of course the type of the viral infection. For instance, people who have chronic illnesses like HIV most likely have to take antivirals every day for life. In this specific situation, the drug regimen keeps the virus inactive inside the body and could potentially help prevent spreading the virus to others.

Is there a difference between antibiotics and antiviral drugs?

Yes, there is a huge difference between these two types of medicines. Antibiotics assist the immune system in fighting off bacterial infections. Bacteria normally reproduce outside of cells, which makes them way easier for medicines to target them. An antibiotic can often treat a lot of different types of bacterial infections. However, these drugs do not work on viruses.

Antiviral medicines work only against a specific virus. They are hard to develop because as we mentioned above, viruses go inside the cells and thus become harder to target.

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