safety medical

Acyclovir (Zovirax)

Zovirax is the brand name for the generic antiviral drug, acyclovir. This medication is generally better known by its generic form because that’s usually what’s brought home from the pharmacy. It was originally discovered in 1974 and approved by the FDA in the early 1980’s. Zovirax has been one of the primary treatments for the viral infection caused by herpes virus including HSV 1 and 2, as well as chickenpox.

What is acyclovir (Zovirax)?

This was the very first antiviral in the world that actually proved to be successful in treating certain strains of the virus known as herpes.

How does acyclovir (Zovirax) work?

The drug is classified as an antiviral, but it does not work on all viruses. It remains inert in the body unless or until it comes into contact with one of the strains of the herpes virus that is sensitive to its make-up. Originally, Zovirax was used as a topical ointment only, but then it was made into an oral capsule that can be taken by adults and children who are 2 years of age or older.

Acyclovir has proven effective against four out of the five strains of the herpes virus including:

  • Herpes simplex virus 1
  • Herpes simples virus 2
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Varicella zoster virus (chickenpox)

This medication works so well against these particular virus strains because it is a synthetic purine nucleoside analogue. This means that it poses as the element the herpes viruses need in order to reproduce. Once the virus comes into contact with this chemical poser, the virus then panics and commits suicide. The ruse does has not been shown to be effective against the cytomegalovirus, however.

How the drug pulls off this trick is an extremely complicated process, where the drug is broken down a couple of times in order to create the ruse against the virus and make it kill itself off all throughout the body, including in the DNA. It firsts uses virus-specific enzymes (thymidine kinase) to break it down into a monophosphate, and then it is further converted into a triphosphate by cellular enzymes. The triphosphate conversion prevents the herpes virus from spreading and replicating in the DNA. The antiviral efficacy is more effective on these strains than other medications because of how the enzyme, thymidine kinase, is turned off and altered by the addition of phosphate into the chemical make-up of the medication and the virus.

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