What are they?
Antiviral agents are drugs that inhibit production and growth of viruses. Most viruses share the same metabolic processes as the host cell, making it difficult to find antivirals for specific viruses. However, some enzymes are only present in viruses and these are potential targets for antiviral drugs. There are multiple types of antiviral agents that are used.
These antivirals can be grouped according to their mode of action. Some include DNA polymerase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, antiviral boosters and neuraminidase inhibitors.
- DNA polymerase inhibitors can be used to treat primary genital herpes, recurrent genital herpes, recurrent herpes labialis, acute herpes zoster (shingles) and to treat CMV retinitis.
- Protease inhibitors are widely used to treat HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C viral infections.
- Antiviral Boosters are drugs that are used in combination with other explicit antiviral drugs to improve or intensify their effect against the HIV viral infection.
- Neuraminidase inhibitors are the most available antiviral agents/drugs and are synthesised to treat HIV, herpes viruses, hepatitis A and B viruses and influenza A and B viruses.
All antiviral agents are important in solving the medical conditions especially in treating viral infections. Most antivirals are used for specific viral infections, while a broad-spectrum antiviral is effective against a wide range of viruses. Unlike most antibiotics, antiviral drugs do not destroy their target pathogen; instead they inhibit their development.
Other agents similar to antivirals include virucides. These are agents that act by deactivating viruses preventing them from entering host cells, either by killing them or by changing their surface structure. They differ from antivirals in that antivirals act by inhibiting the growth of viruses.