What are antivirals?Most antivirals do not fight viruses directly, but suppress them by interrupting the reproductive process.
Most antivirals do not fight viruses directly, but suppress them by interrupting the reproductive process. In contrast to bacteria, viruses can not proliferate independently and therefore rely on host cells.
Antiviral drugs can stop this process in several places. Thus, it can be prevented that viruses get access to the receptors, that is, the docking sites, of a host cell or that the virus completely takes over the cell. Other agents prevent the proliferation of already infected cells by disrupting cell division. Still other medications such as the so-called interferons support the immune system in the fight against the pathogen.
These endogenous messenger substances are produced by infected cells in order to alert the surrounding tissue to the virus and to activate additional defense mechanisms. Synthetic interferons enhance this process. Similarly, artificially produced antibodies. These bind to infested cells and thus accelerate their detection and control. The application of immunostimulatory drugs is known, among other procedures, as immunotherapy.
Medical application, effect & use
The most commonly used antivirals include antiretroviral drugs. These are used in the treatment of HIV infection to slow the onset of AIDS. Although a cure can not yet be expected, the virus-inhibiting effect is promising and has already significantly increased the life expectancy of HIV patients.
In other areas, antivirals are increasingly used and often as a supplement to vaccines. While preventive measures continue to be more effective, influenza viruses are mutating so rapidly that a new vaccine needs to be developed each year. If administered too late, antiviral drugs may help the disease in high-risk groups. These include children, pregnant women, patients whose immune systems are weakened, or those who suffer from chronic conditions that can cause complications.
Longer-lasting hepatitis can be treated similarly to minimize serious damage to the liver. In the case of an incurable herpes simplex disease, antivirals can reduce the duration, severity, and frequency of recurrent disease outbreaks. In addition, these drugs in many cases reduce the risk of transmission. Similar to antibiotics, antivirals have already caused the emergence of resistant viral diseases, which is considered in the application. Therefore, these drugs are generally used very targeted, when the benefits of treatment outweigh.
Herbal, natural, homeopathic & pharmaceutical virustatics
Many virus inhibitors are made from natural ingredients. The basic substance of the well-known preparation Tamiflu® (active ingredient: oseltamivir) is obtained from real star anise.
During the bird flu epidemic, increased demand even led to supply bottlenecks. The antiviral effect is attributed to the essential oils found in the plant. These are also responsible for the effects of eucalyptus oil against herpesviruses, according to laboratory studies. In addition, many types of fungi contain antiviral component. Pure natural medicines are not yet available.
All natural raw materials also undergo several, often very complex, processing processes. The dosage forms vary, often injection solutions and tablets. The drugs are often divided according to the mode of action, ie whether they affect the virus before, after or during the infection of healthy cells. The range of applications is another factor. Antivirals can be targeted for use against a single or a small number of related diseases or, like the interferons, have a generally antiviral effect.
Risks & Side Effects
Since the group of these drugs is very large, the range of possible side effects is correspondingly broad and dependent on the type of application.
Thus, antiviral ointments, which are applied externally, are well tolerated and side effects are usually limited to the field of application. Nausea, headache and diarrhea are more common among the systemic drugs, which are taken as tablets. Anti-viral agents designed for specific pathogens are generally better tolerated, while large-scale agents usually cause more side effects. Since most drugs are processed through the liver, patients with liver disease are exposed to greater risks.
Since it can in the rarest cases even come to the death and many virussemmende means only for few years on the market, side effects are not always perfect. The most common viral diseases heal easily in healthy people and therefore only in exceptional cases justify the use of antiviral agents.