A protease inhibitor is an agent under the class of ARVs, which works by preventing protease from forming peptides. Protease is considered an HIV enzyme, which the inhibitor aims at overpowering. In this way, there will be a decrease in the amount of AIDS viruses in the human body. The main goal of the inhibitor is to hinder new immature HIV from developing into mature ones that can infect other CD4 cells, thereby worsening the condition of a person infected by the virus.
How a Protease Inhibitor Works
HIV/ AIDS is a health condition whose outlook has significantly grown over the years. Although there is not proven cure yet, doctors have been able to deliver effective remedies to help in prolonging the lives of those infected by the virus, thanks to the discovery of protease inhibitors and other retroviral drugs. Considering that HIV is a retrovirus, it uses RNA as its primary genetic material in order to produce another copy of itself, unlike in animals, several micro-organisms and plants which use DNA.
Once the virus is in the body, it looks for cells that bear CD4 proteins on their surface. Since HIV is able to attach itself to CD4, it injects its own genetic material into those cells. Therein, the virus only needs to convert its RNA to DNA in order to keep multiplying in the blood. However, this process cannot occur inside the cells. Therefore, it tries to make the machinery transform RNA into DNA since it does not have the requirements for completing its life cycle.
Besides, HIV also tries to control the natural capabilities of the cell to manufacture proteins by creating its own protein versions. As a result, the virus is able to continue its lifecycle by producing new copies of RNA and collects them in large numbers. Due to the compatibility and efficiency of the virus, it builds protein strings into an elongated non-functional strand. However, the strings have to be cut into components, which continue with the task of replication.
HIV uses the protease enzyme to cut the strings. When a protease inhibitor is administered to a person who is infected with the virus, the inhibitor hinders the enzyme from cutting the elongated protein chains. In this way, the drug is able to interfere with the life cycle of HIV, and stop it from making copies of itself.
Protease Inhibitor Drugs
There are various kinds of protease inhibitors that are used in various health facilities to help people with HIV. The following are the protease inhibition drugs that have been approved by the FDA;
- Atazanavir (Reyataz)
- Saquinavir (Invirase)
- Darunavir (Prezista)
- Indinavir (Crixivan)
- Fosamprenavir (Lexiva)
- Lopinavir and ritonavir (Kaletra) among others.
Administration of a Protease Inhibitor
Despite the great benefits of protease inhibition in the regulation of HIV in the body, a single therapy may not be effective and even cause a variety of drug-resistant Human Immune Viruses. Hence, protease inhibitors are usually used together with other ARVs.
For example, the administration of a protease inhibitor together with a reverse transcriptase inhibitor has proven to be highly effective in converting retroviral RNA into DNA, and suppressing the replication of HIV than any other drug used alone.
The best and most effective combination drug for suppressing the development of resistant HIV is Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). This therapy entails a combination of three or more reverse transcriptase and protease inhibition agents.
After the examination of an HIV–infected patient by a professional health practitioner, a protease inhibition drug can be administered as a separate pill or combined into one pill with other anti-retroviral agents.
Side Effects of a Protease Inhibitor
Just like other ARVs or drugs, there are also side effects of using protease inhibitors including;
- Increased risk of bleeding in people with cases of hemophilia
- Loss of appetite
A protease inhibitor is an anti-retroviral agent with great health benefits to patients of HIV/AIDS. However, it is always advisable that you seek advice from your doctor before using the drugs in order to know whether they can work for you and how they should be used.
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