Re: Re: Answers to Pennee Atkinson 17 August 2004
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Nicholas Bennett,
Infectious Disease Postdoc/Clinician
Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, Syracuse NY

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Re: Re: Re: Answers to Pennee Atkinson

Dear Pennee,

The paper you use refers to entirely different classes of antiviral drugs.

As with all pharmaceuticals, the drugs work in different ways. You cannot expect an HIV protease inhibitor to act against a herpes thymidine kinase, any more than you can expect a beta-blocker to lower cholesterol.

That's not to claim that drugs can magically seek out their targets, but it is a simple statement that they are developed and/or discovered to act in generally specific ways. The side effects are the basic fact that this specificity isn't perfect.

Now, sometimes an antiviral WILL work against a different virus. An excellent example would be hepatitis B, which also has a reverse transcriptase enzyme. It's no surprise that some of the HIV reverse transcriptatse inhibitors work against HepB as well.

The statement I made about the immune response is not amazing, is it simple fact. If you had read the papers I referenced you would see that they actually measured the immune responses before and after HIV treatment. Treating the HHV8 would not have affected the immune responses against it - this is basic immunology.

As for EBV specifically, it's well known that EBV is never eradicated from the host once infection has occured. Exactly the same as HIV, the herpes viruses are extraordinarily adept at causing a chronic lifelong infection.

I'm afraid it's rather too simplistic to put all antivirals in the same basket, when by their very nature they have to be extraordinarily specific to target a virus above healthy uninfected cells. Viruses are parasites and unlike bacteria use a great deal of the host cellular machinery. This is why virus infections are generally poorly treated by drugs. Suggesting that anti-herpes medications are the same as anti-HIV drugs because they are both "antivirals" is an extraordinary show of ignorance. You may as well say that a tree is the same as a grass because they're both "plants"!

Competing interests: None declared