Review of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, 13th Edition

35. Antiviral Drugs

CHAPTER CONTENTS

Principles of Antiviral Therapy

Inhibition of Early Events

Inhibition of Viral Nucleic Acid Synthesis

Inhibitors of Herpesviruses

Inhibitors of Retroviruses

Inhibitors of Hepatitis B Virus

Inhibitors of Hepatitis C Virus

Inhibitors of Other Viruses

Inhibition of Integrase

Inhibition of Cleavage of Precursor Polypeptides (Protease Inhibitors)

Inhibitors of Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Inhibitors of Hepatitis C Virus

Inhibition of Viral Protein Synthesis

Interferon

Fomivirsen

Inhibition of Release of Virus

Chemoprophylaxis

Pearls

Self-Assessment Questions

Practice Questions: USMLE & Course Examinations

PRINCIPLES OF ANTIVIRAL THERAPY

Compared with the number of drugs available to treat bacterial infections, the number of antiviral drugs is very small. The major reason for this difference is the difficulty in obtaining selective toxicity against viruses; their replication is intimately involved with the normal synthetic processes of the cell. Despite the difficulty, several virus-specific replication steps have been identified that are the site of action of effective antiviral drugs (Table 35–1). Table 35–2 describes the mode of action of antiviral drugs that block early events in viral replication, and Table 35–3 describes the mode of action of antiviral drugs that block viral nucleic acid synthesis. Figure 35–1 shows the replication of a model virus and the site of action of drugs used to treat various viral infections. Figure 35–2 shows the replication of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the site of action of drugs used to treat HIV infection.

TABLE 35–1 Stage of Viral Replication Inhibited by Antiviral Drugs

image

TABLE 35–2 Antiviral Drugs That Block Early Events

image

TABLE 35–3 Antiviral Drugs That Block Viral Nucleic Acid Synthesis

image

image

FIGURE 35–1 Replicative cycle of a model virus showing the site of action of drugs used to treat various viral infections. CMV, cytomegalovirus; HBV, hepatitis B virus; HCV, hepatitis C virus; HSV, herpes simplex virus; RSV, respiratory syncytial virus; VZV, varicella-zoster virus.

image

FIGURE 35–2 Replicative cycle of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) showing the site of action of drugs used to treat HIV infection.

Another limitation of antiviral drugs is that they are relatively ineffective because many cycles of viral replication occur during the incubation period when the patient is well. By the time the patient has a recognizable systemic viral disease, the virus has spread throughout the body and it is too late to interdict it. Furthermore, some viruses (e.g., herpesviruses) become latent within cells, and no current antiviral drug can eradicate them.

Another limiting factor is the emergence of drug-resistant viral mutants. For example, when drug-resistant mutants of HIV emerge, it requires that drug regimens be changed. Also, treatment of HIV infection uses multiple drugs, often from different classes, so that if mutants resistant to one drug emerge, another drug will still be effective.

INHIBITION OF EARLY EVENTS

Amantadine (a-adamantanamine, Symmetrel) is a three-ring compound (Figure 35–3) that blocks the replication of influenza A virus. It prevents replication by inhibiting uncoating of the virus by blocking the “ion channel” activity of the matrix protein (M2 protein) in the virion. Absorption and penetration occur normally, but transcription by the virion RNA polymerase does not because uncoating cannot occur. This drug specifically inhibits influenza A virus; influenza B and C viruses are not affected.

image

FIGURE 35–3 Structures of some medically important antiviral drugs.

Despite its efficacy in preventing influenza, it is not widely used in the United States because the vaccine is preferred for the high-risk population. Furthermore, most isolates have become resistant to amantadine. The main side effects of amantadine are central nervous system alterations such as dizziness, ataxia, and insomnia. Rimantadine (Flumadine) is a derivative of amantadine and has the same mode of action but fewer side effects.

Enfuvirtide (Fuzeon) is a synthetic peptide that binds to gp41 on the surface of HIV, thereby blocking the entry of the virus into the cell. It is the first of a new class of anti-HIV drugs known as “fusion inhibitors” (i.e., they prevent the fusion of the viral envelope with the cell membrane).

Maraviroc (Selzentry) blocks the binding of HIV to CCR-5—an important coreceptor for those strains of HIV that use CCR-5 for entry into the cell. The drug binds to CCR-5 and blocks the interaction of gp120, an HIV envelope protein, to CCR-5 on the cell surface.

Palivizumab (Synagis) is a monoclonal antibody directed against the fusion protein of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Palivizumab neutralizes RSV by binding to the fusion protein on the surface of RSV, thereby preventing the virus from binding to receptors on the surface of respiratory tract mucosal cells. It is used to prevent bronchiolitis and pneumonia in premature or immunocompromised infants.

INHIBITION OF VIRAL NUCLEIC ACID SYNTHESIS

Inhibitors of Herpesviruses

Nucleoside Inhibitors

These drugs are analogues of nucleosides that inhibit the DNA polymerase of one or more members of the herpesvirus family. For example, acyclovir inhibits the DNA polymerase herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and -2) and varicella-zoster virus but not cytomegalovirus (CMV).

1. Acyclovir—Acyclovir (acycloguanosine, Zovirax) is a guanosine analogue that has a three-carbon fragment in place of the normal sugar, ribose, which has five carbons (see Figure 35–3). The term acyclo refers to the fact that the three-carbon fragment does not have a sugar ring structure (a = without, cyclo = ring).

Acyclovir is active primarily against HSV-1 and -2 and varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It is relatively nontoxic, because it is activated preferentially within virus-infected cells. This is due to the virus-encoded thymidine kinase, which phosphorylates acyclovir much more effectively than does the cellular thymidine kinase. Because only HSV-1, HSV-2, and VZV encode a kinase that efficiently phosphorylates acyclovir, the drug is active primarily against these viruses. It has no activity against CMV. Once the drug is phosphorylated to acyclovir monophosphate by the viral thymidine kinase, cellular kinases synthesize acyclovir triphosphate, which inhibits viral DNA polymerase much more effectively than it inhibits cellular DNA polymerase. Acyclovir causes chain termination because it lacks a hydroxyl group in the 3´ position.

To recap, the selective action of acyclovir is based on two features of the drug. (1) Acyclovir is phosphorylated to acyclovir monophosphate much more effectively by herpesvirus-encoded thymidine kinase than by cellular thymidine kinase. It is therefore preferentially activated in herpesvirus-infected cells and much less so in uninfected cells, which accounts for its relatively few side effects. (2) Acyclovir triphosphate inhibits herpesvirus-encoded DNA polymerase much more effectively than it does cellular DNA polymerase. It therefore inhibits viral DNA synthesis to a much greater extent than cellular DNA synthesis (Figure 35–4).

image

FIGURE 35–4 Acyclovir (ACV) is phosphorylated to ACV-MP very effectively by herpesvirus-encoded thymidine kinase but very poorly by cell-encoded thymidine kinase. The thymidine kinases encoded by herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1, HSV-2, and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) are particularly active on ACV; the thymidine kinases encoded by cytomegalovirus and Epstein–Barr virus are not. This accounts for the selective action of ACV in cells infected by HSV-1, HSV-2, and VZV. The fact that ACV-TP is not made in uninfected cells explains why ACV has so few side effects (i.e., why DNA synthesis is not inhibited in uninfected cells). ACV-MP, ACV monophosphate; ACV-DP, ACV diphosphate; ACV-TP, ACV triphosphate.

Topical acyclovir is effective in the treatment of primary genital herpes and reduces the frequency of recurrences while it is being taken. However, it has no effect on latency or on the rate of recurrences after treatment is stopped. Acyclovir is the treatment of choice for HSV-1 encephalitis and is effective in preventing systemic infection by HSV-1 or VZV in immunocompromised patients.

Acyclovir-resistant mutants have been isolated from HSV-1- and VZV-infected patients. Resistance is most often due to mutations in the gene encoding the viral thymidine kinase. This results in reduced activity of or the total absence of the virus-encoded thymidine kinase.

Acyclovir is well tolerated and causes few side effects—even in patients who have taken it orally for many years to suppress genital herpes. Intravenous acyclovir may cause renal or central nervous system toxicity.

Derivatives of acyclovir with various properties are now available. Valacyclovir (Valtrex) achieves a high plasma concentration when taken orally and is used in herpes genitalis and in herpes zoster. Penciclovir cream (Denavir) is used in the treatment of recurrent orolabial herpes simplex. Famciclovir (Famvir), when taken orally, is converted to penciclovir and is used to treat herpes zoster and herpes simplex infections.

2. Ganciclovir—Ganciclovir (dihydroxypropoxymethylguanine, DHPG, Cytovene) is a nucleoside analogue of guanosine with a four-carbon fragment in place of the normal sugar, ribose (see Figure 35–3). It is structurally similar to acyclovir but is more active against CMV than is acyclovir. Ganciclovir is activated by a CMV-encoded phosphokinase in a process similar to that by which acyclovir is activated by HSV. Isolates of CMV resistant to ganciclovir have emerged, mostly due to mutations in the UL97 gene that encodes the phosphokinase.

Ganciclovir is effective in the treatment of retinitis caused by CMV in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and is useful in other disseminated infections, such as colitis and esophagitis, caused by this virus. The main side effects of ganciclovir are leukopenia and thrombocytopenia as a result of bone marrow suppression. Valganciclovir, which can be taken orally, is also effective against CMV retinitis.

3. Cidofovir—Cidofovir (hydroxyphosphonylmethoxy-propylcytosine, HPMPC, Vistide) is an analogue of cytosine that lacks a ribose ring. It is useful in the treatment of retinitis caused by CMV and in severe human papillomavirus infections. It may be useful in the treatment of severe molluscum contagiosum in immunocompromised patients. Kidney damage is the main side effect.

4. Vidarabine—Vidarabine (adenine arabinoside, ara-A) is a nucleoside analogue with arabinose in place of the normal sugar, ribose. On entering the cell, the drug is phosphorylated by cellular kinases to the triphosphate, which inhibits the herpesvirus-encoded DNA polymerase more effectively than the cellular DNA polymerase. Vidarabine is effective against HSV-1 infections such as encephalitis and keratitis but is less effective and more toxic than acyclovir.

5. Idoxuridine—Idoxuridine (iododeoxyuridine, IDU, IUDR) is a nucleoside analogue in which the methyl group of thymidine is replaced by an iodine atom. The drug is phosphorylated to the triphosphate by cellular kinases and incorporated into DNA. Because IDU has a high frequency of mismatched pairing to guanine, it causes the formation of faulty progeny DNA and mRNA. However, because IDU is incorporated into normal cell DNA as well as viral DNA, it is too toxic to be used systemically. It is clinically useful in the topical treatment of keratoconjunctivitis caused by herpes simplex virus, but in the United States, trifluorothymidine (see next entry) is the drug of choice.

6. Trifluridine—(trifluorothymidine, Viroptic) is a nucleoside analogue in which the methyl group of thymidine contains three fluorine atoms instead of three hydrogen atoms (see Figure 35–3). Its mechanism of action is the same as that of IDU. Like IDU, it is too toxic for systemic use. It is the drug of choice for the topical treatment of keratoconjunctivitis caused by herpes simplex virus.

Nonnucleoside Inhibitors

Nonnucleoside inhibitors inhibit the DNA polymerase of herpesviruses by mechanisms distinct from the nucleoside analogues described previously. Foscarnet is the only approved drug in this class at this time.

1. Foscarnet—Foscarnet (trisodium phosphonoformate, Foscavir), unlike the previous drugs, which are nucleoside analogues, is a pyrophosphate analogue (see Figure 35–3). It binds to DNA polymerase at the pyrophosphate cleavage site and prevents removal of the phosphates from nucleoside triphosphates (dNTP). This inhibits the addition of the next dNTP and, as a consequence, the extension of the DNA strand. Foscarnet inhibits the DNA polymerases of all herpesviruses, especially HSV and CMV. Unlike acyclovir, it does not require activation by thymidine kinase. It is useful in the treatment of retinitis caused by CMV, but ganciclovir is the treatment of first choice for this disease. Foscarnet is also used to treat patients infected with acyclovir-resistant mutants of HSV-1 and VZV.

Inhibitors of Retroviruses

Nucleoside Inhibitors

The selective toxicity of zidovudine, lamivudine, emtricitabine, didanosine, zalcitabine, stavudine, abacavir, and tenofovir is based on their ability to inhibit DNA synthesis by the reverse transcriptase of HIV to a much greater extent than they inhibit DNA synthesis by the DNA polymerase in human cells. These drugs are collectively called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). The effect of these drugs on the replication of HIV is depicted in Figure 35–2.

1. Zidovudine—Zidovudine (azidothymidine, Retrovir, AZT) is a nucleoside analogue that causes chain termination during DNA synthesis; it has an azido group in place of the hydroxyl group on the ribose (see Figure 35–3). It is particularly effective against DNA synthesis by the reverse transcriptase of HIV and inhibits the growth of the virus in cell culture. The main adverse effects of zidovudine are bone marrow suppression and myopathy.

2. Lamivudine—Lamivudine (dideoxythiacytidine, Epivir, 3TC) is a nucleoside analogue that causes chain termination during DNA synthesis by the reverse transcriptase of HIV. When used in combination with AZT, it is very effective both in reducing the viral load and in elevating the CD4 cell count. Lamivudine is also used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B because it inhibits the reverse transcriptase of hepatitis B virus. It is one of the best tolerated of the nucleoside inhibitors, but adverse effects such as neutropenia, pancreatitis, and peripheral neuropathy do occur.

3. Emtricitabine—Emtricitabine (Emtriva), a derivative of lamivudine, is also useful and well tolerated. A combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir (Truvada) can be used for preexposure prophylaxis for men who have sex with men as well as for postexposure prophylaxis.

4. Didanosine—Didanosine (dideoxyinosine, Videx, ddI) is a nucleoside analogue that causes chain termination during DNA synthesis; it is missing hydroxyl groups on the ribose. The administered drug ddI is metabolized to ddATP, which is the active compound. It is effective against DNA synthesis by the reverse transcriptase of HIV and is used to treat patients with AIDS who are intolerant of or resistant to zidovudine. The main adverse effects of didanosine are pancreatitis and peripheral neuropathy.

5. Stavudine—Stavudine (didehydrodideoxythymidine, d4T, Zerit) is a nucleoside analogue that causes chain termination during DNA synthesis. It inhibits DNA synthesis by the reverse transcriptase of HIV and is used to treat patients with advanced AIDS who are intolerant of or resistant to other approved therapies. The main adverse effect is peripheral neuropathy.

6. Abacavir—Abacavir (Ziagen) is a nucleoside analogue of guanosine that causes chain termination during DNA synthesis. It is available through the “expanded access” program to those who have failed currently available drug regimens. Abacavir is used in combination with either a protease inhibitor, typically darunavir and ritonavir, or zidovudine plus lamivudine. The main adverse effects are liver damage and severe hypersensitivity reactions. Patients who have an HLA-B1701 allele are more likely to have a severe hypersensitivity reaction, such as fever, rash, or respiratory problems, to abacavir. Patients should be tested for this gene before being prescribed abacavir. If patients develop hypersensitivity symptoms, abacavir should be immediately and permanently discontinued.

7. Tenofovir—Tenofovir (Viread) is an acyclic phosphonate that is an analogue of adenosine monophosphate. It is a reverse transcriptase inhibitor that acts by chain termination. It is approved for use in patients who have developed resistance to other reverse transcriptase inhibitors and in those who are starting treatment for the first time. It should be used in combination with other anti-HIV drugs. The main adverse effects are liver damage, lactic acidosis, and renal failure.

Nonnucleoside Inhibitors

Unlike the drugs described earlier, the drugs in this group are not nucleoside analogues and do not cause chain termination. The nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) act by binding near the active site of the reverse transcriptase and inducing a conformational change that inhibits the synthesis of viral DNA. NNRTIs should not be used as monotherapy because resistant mutants emerge rapidly. Strains of HIV resistant to one NNRTI are usually resistant to others as well. NNRTIs are typically used in combination with one or two nucleoside analogues.

1. Nevirapine—Nevirapine (Viramune) is usually used in combination with zidovudine and didanosine. There is no cross-resistance with the nucleoside inhibitors of reverse transcriptase described previously. The main side effect of nevirapine is a severe skin rash (Stevens-Johnson syndrome).

2. Delavirdine—Delavirdine (Rescriptor) is effective in combination with either zidovudine or zidovudine plus didanosine. The main side effect of delavirdine is a skin rash.

3. Efavirenz—Efavirenz (Sustiva) is effective in combination with zidovudine plus lamivudine. The most common side effects are referable to the central nervous system, such as dizziness, insomnia, and headaches.

4. Etravirine—Etravirine (Intelence) is a second-generation NNRTI useful in treatment-experienced patients who have significant viremia. It is most effective when given in combination with two protease inhibitors, darunavir and ritonavir. The most common adverse effect is a rash, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome has occurred, albeit rarely.

5. Rilpivirine—Rilpivirine (Edurant) is a second-generation NNRTI useful in treatment-naïve adult patients. It is most effective when used in combination with either tenofovir or emtricitabine. The most common adverse effects are depression and insomnia.

Inhibitors of Hepatitis B Virus

Adefovir

Adefovir (Hepsera) is a nucleotide analogue of adenosine monophosphate that inhibits the DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) of hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is used for the treatment of chronic active hepatitis caused by this virus.

Entecavir

Entecavir (Baraclude) is a guanosine analogue that inhibits the DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) of HBV. It has no activity against the DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) of HIV. It is approved for the treatment of adults with chronic HBV infection.

Lamivudine

Lamivudine is described in the section “Inhibitors of Retroviruses.”

Telbivudine

Telbivudine (Tyzeka) is a thymidine analogue that inhibits the DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) of HBV but has no effect on the reverse transcriptase of HIV. It is useful in the treatment of chronic HBV infection.

Tenofovir

Tenofovir is described in the section “Inhibitors of Retroviruses.”

Inhibitors of Hepatitis C Virus

Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) is a uridine analogue that inhibits the RNA polymerase of HCV. It is useful in the treatment of chronic HCV infection caused by genotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Inhibitors of Other Viruses

Ribavirin

Ribavirin (Virazole) is a nucleoside analogue in which a triazole-carboxamide moiety is substituted in place of the normal purine precursor aminoimidazole-carboxamide (see Figure 35–3). The drug inhibits the synthesis of guanine nucleotides, which are essential for both DNA and RNA viruses. It also inhibits the 5´ capping of viral mRNA. Ribavirin aerosol is used clinically to treat pneumonitis caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants and to treat severe influenza B infections. Ribavirin is also used in combination with α-interferon (peginterferon) for the treatment of hepatitis C.

INHIBITION OF INTEGRASE

Raltegravir (Isentress) is an integrase inhibitor (i.e., it blocks the HIV-encoded integrase that mediates the integration of the newly synthesized viral DNA into host cell DNA). Two additional integrase inhibitors are available: dolutegravir (Tivicay) and elvitegravir (Stribild).

INHIBITION OF CLEAVAGE OF PRECURSOR POLYPEPTIDES (PROTEASE INHIBITORS)

Inhibitors of Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Members of the protease inhibitor (PI) class of drugs, such as saquinavir (Invirase, Fortovase), indinavir (Crixivan), ritonavir (Norvir), lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), atazanavir (Reyataz), tipranavir (Aptivus), amprenavir (Agenerase) and its prodrug fosamprenavir (Lexiva), darunavir (Prezista), and nelfinavir (Viracept), inhibit the protease encoded by HIV (Figure 35–5). The protease cleaves the gag and pol precursor polypeptides to produce several nucleocapsid proteins (e.g., p24) and enzymatic proteins (e.g., reverse transcriptase) required for viral replication. These inhibitors contain peptide bonds that bind to the active site of the viral protease, thereby preventing the protease from cleaving the viral precursor. These drugs inhibit production of infectious virions but do not affect the proviral DNA and therefore do not cure the infection.

image

FIGURE 35–5 Structure of the protease inhibitor saquinavir. Note the presence of several peptide bonds, which interact with the active site of the protease. An arrow indicates one of the peptide bonds.

Monotherapy with PIs should not be used because resistant mutants emerge rapidly. These drugs typically are prescribed in combination with reverse transcriptase inhibitors, such as zidovudine and lamivudine. Ritonavir is typically used in combination with another PI, as in the commonly used combination lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra). Ritonavir inhibits the enzymes that metabolize the other PI, which effectively raise the concentration of the other drug (e.g., lopinavir in the Kaletra combination). Ritonavir “boosts” lopinavir is the way to remember it.

The side effects of PIs include nausea, diarrhea, and abnormal fat accumulation in the back of the neck that can result in a “buffalo hump” appearance. These abnormal fat deposits can be disfiguring and cause patients to stop taking the drug. The fat deposits are a type of lipodystrophy; the metabolic process by which this occurs is unknown. Indinavir can cause kidney stones; thus extra water should be consumed to reduce the likelihood of stone formation.

Inhibitors of Hepatitis C Virus

Boceprevir (Victrelis), simeprevir (Olysio) and telaprevir (Incivek) are PIs that block a serine protease required for the replication of hepatitis C virus. They are approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C caused by hepatitis C virus (genotype 1) in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin. The most important adverse effect of these drugs is anemia.

INHIBITION OF VIRAL PROTEIN SYNTHESIS

Interferon

The mode of action of interferon is described in Chapter 33. Recombinant α-interferon is effective in the treatment of some patients with chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C infections. It also causes regression of condylomata acuminata lesions caused by human papillomavirus and the lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma caused by human herpesvirus-8.

Pegylated interferon (peginterferon), which is α-interferon conjugated to polyethylene glycol, is used for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C. The advantage of pegylated interferon is that it has a longer half-life than unconjugated α-interferon and can be administered once a week instead of three times a week.

Fomivirsen

Fomivirsen (Vitravene) is an antisense DNA that blocks the replication of CMV. Antisense DNA is a single-stranded DNA whose base sequence is the complement of the viral mRNA. Antisense DNA binds to the mRNA within the infected cell and prevents it from being translated into viral protein. Fomivirsen is approved for the intraocular treatment of CMV retinitis. It is the first and, at present, the only antisense molecule to be approved for the treatment of human disease.

INHIBITION OF RELEASE OF VIRUS

Zanamivir (Relenza) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu) inhibit the neuraminidase of influenza virus. This enzyme is located on the surface of influenza virus and is required for the release of the virus from infected cells. Inhibition of release of influenza virus limits the infection by reducing the spread of virus from one cell to another. These drugs are effective against both influenza A and B viruses, in contrast to amantadine, which is effective only against influenza A virus. These drugs are effective against strains of influenza virus resistant to amantadine.

CHEMOPROPHYLAXIS

In most instances, the antiviral agents described in this chapter are used to treat infectious diseases. However, there are times when they are used to prevent diseases from occurring—a process called chemoprophylaxisTable 35–4 describes the drugs used for this purpose and the situations in which they are used. For more information, see the chapters on the individual viruses.

TABLE 35–4 Chemoprophylactic Use of Drugs Described in This Chapter

image

PEARLS

• Selective toxicity is the ability of a drug to inhibit viral replication without significantly damaging the host cell. It is difficult to achieve a high degree of selective toxicity with antiviral drugs because the virus can only replicate within cells and uses many cellular functions during replication.

Inhibitors of Early Events

• Amantadine inhibits the uncoating of influenza A virus by blocking “ion channel” activity of the viral matrix protein (M2 protein). The drug has no effect on influenza B or C viruses.

• Maraviroc inhibits the binding of the gp120 of HIV to the CCR-5 receptor on the cell.

• Enfuvirtide is a “fusion inhibitor.” It inhibits the fusion of HIV with the cell membrane by binding to gp41, an envelope protein of HIV.

Inhibitors of Herpesviruses: Nucleoside Inhibitors

• Acyclovir inhibits the DNA polymerase of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1, HSV-2, and varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Acyclovir must be activated within the infected cell by a virus-encoded thymidine kinase that phosphorylates the drug. Acyclovir is not phosphorylated in uninfected cells, and cellular DNA synthesis is not inhibited. Selective toxicity is high, and there are very few adverse effects.

• Acyclovir is a chain-terminating drug because it lacks a hydroxyl group in the 3´ position. It does not have a ribose ring (i.e., it is acyclo, meaning without a ring). The absence of this hydroxyl group means the next nucleoside triphosphate cannot be added and the replicating DNA chain is terminated.

• Acyclovir inhibits viral replication but has no effect on the latency of HSV-1, HSV-2, and VZV.

• Ganciclovir action is very similar to that of acyclovir, but it is effective against cytomegalovirus (CMV), whereas acyclovir is not.

Inhibitors of Herpesviruses: Nonnucleoside Inhibitors

• Foscarnet inhibits the DNA polymerase of all herpesviruses but is clinically useful against HSV and CMV. It is a pyrophosphate analogue that inhibits the cleavage of pyrophosphate from the nucleoside triphosphate that has been added to the growing DNA chain.

Inhibitors of Retroviruses: Nucleoside Inhibitors (NRTIs)

• Zidovudine inhibits the DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) of HIV. It is a chain-terminating drug because it has an azide group in place of the hydroxyl group in the 3´ position. Unlike acyclovir, it does not require a viral-encoded kinase to be phosphorylated. Cellular kinases phosphorylate the drug, so it is active in uninfected cells and significant adverse effects can occur.

• Other drugs with the same mode of action include lamivudine, didanosine, emtricitabine, stavudine, abacavir, and tenofovir.

Inhibitors of Retroviruses: Nonnucleoside Inhibitors (NNRTIs)

• Nevirapine, delavirdine, efavirenz, etravirine, and rilpivirine inhibit the DNA polymerase (reverse transcriptase) of HIV but are not nucleoside analogues.

Inhibitors of Hepatitis B Virus

• Adefovir, entecavir, lamivudine, and telbivudine inhibit the DNA polymerase of hepatitis B virus (HBV). These drugs are useful in the treatment of chronic HBV infection.

Inhibitors of Hepatitis C Virus

• Sofosbuvir is useful in the treatment of acute and chronic HCV infection.

Inhibitors of Other Viruses

• Ribavirin is a guanosine analogue that can inhibit nucleic acid synthesis of several viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus and hepatitis C virus.

Integrase Inhibitors

• Raltegravir, elvitegravir, and dolutegravir inhibit the integrase encoded by HIV, which blocks the integration of HIV DNA into host cell DNA.

Protease Inhibitors

• Indinavir and other similar drugs inhibit the virus-encoded protease of HIV. Inhibition of the protease prevents cleavage of precursor polypeptides, which prevents formation of the structural proteins of the virus. Synthesis of infectious virus is inhibited, but the viral DNA integrated into the host cell DNA is unaffected.

• Boceprevir, simeprevir, and telaprevir inhibit the protease of hepatitis C virus.

Inhibitors of Viral Protein Synthesis

• Interferons inhibit virus replication by degrading mRNA and blocking protein synthesis. (See Chapter 33 for more information.) Pegylated interferon-alpha is used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B and acute and chronic hepatitis C.

• Fomivirsen is an antisense DNA that binds to the mRNA of CMV, which prevents the mRNA from being translated into viral proteins.

Inhibitors of Release of Virus

• Zanamivir and oseltamivir inhibit the neuraminidase of both influenza A and B viruses. This inhibits the release of progeny virus, which reduces spread of virus to neighboring cells.

SELF-ASSESSMENT QUESTIONS

1. Regarding the mode of action of antiviral drugs, which one of the following is the MOST accurate?

(A) Amantadine inhibits the virus-encoded DNA polymerase that is required to synthesize viral progeny DNA.

(B) Lamivudine inhibits the cell-encoded RNA polymerase that is required to synthesize viral genome.

(C) Raltegravir inhibits the translation of viral mRNA into viral proteins.

(D) Ritonavir inhibits the virus-encoded protease that is required to cleave viral precursor polypeptides into functional proteins.

(E) Zidovudine inhibits the virus-encoded RNA polymerase that is required to synthesize viral mRNA.

2. Which one of the following best describes the action of oseltamivir (Tamiflu)?

(A) Inhibits reverse transcriptase

(B) Inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in the virion

(C) Inhibits the DNA-dependent RNA polymerase in the infected cell

(D) Inhibits viral protein synthesis by binding to the 60S ribosomal subunit

(E) Inhibits the neuraminidase required for release of virus from the infected cell

3. Which one of the following is a well-described adverse effect of the protease inhibitors used in the treatment of HIV infection?

(A) Bone marrow suppression

(B) Central nervous system disturbances

(C) Drug-induced hepatitis

(D) Lipodystrophy

(E) Peripheral neuropathy

4. Regarding acyclovir, which one of the following is the MOST accurate?

(A) Bone marrow suppression is a significant adverse effect.

(B) It terminates the latent state of both herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2.

(C) It inhibits the virus-encoded thymidine kinase that is required to synthesize viral DNA.

(D) Resistance to acyclovir is primarily caused by proton pumps that export the drug from the cell.

(E) It is a chain-terminating drug because it does not have a complete ribose ring and therefore lacks a hydroxyl group in the correct position.

ANSWERS

1. (D)

2. (E)

3. (D)

4. (E)

PRACTICE QUESTIONS: USMLE & COURSE EXAMINATIONS

Questions on the topics discussed in this chapter can be found in the Basic Virology section of PART XIII: USMLE (National Board) Practice Questions starting on page 700. Also see PART XIV: USMLE (National Board) Practice Examination starting on page 731.