HIV Virus Life Cycle — How Does It Spread? Can It Be Prevented?

HIV virus life cylce and infectivity inside the body

Among the many diseases that ever occurred in the human race, HIV belongs to the few without complete treatment. Hence, the only weapon of science against this virus is prevention. Not that no one ever survived HIV, only that two cases have ever been cured. And both were situational and incidental. Knowing the HIV virus life cycle could also prevent you from getting into this messy ball of coinfection and weaker immune system. However, despite its concerning prognosis, the prevalence of HIV is high. And the way it causes havoc in your body will bewilder you. If you have not been worried about HIV, now is the time. Compared to the life cycle of a virus causing the flu, HIV paves a different path. Know ways to limit your chances of getting HIV. The virus may be too small to see but there are ways to reduce its transmission.

HIV And Its Threat To The Body

Also known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV has the capacity to attack your immune system through the CD4 cells. And as if HIV is not a problem on its own, it makes the infected person more vulnerable to diseases. Regular pathogens that a normal, healthy person can fight off becomes a life-threatening infection to people with HIV. And while the virus continues to wear down the immune system, outside microorganisms will find it easy to reach deeper and multiply more. When another pathogen establishes invasion, this is when coinfection happens. Coinfection is a staple of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the last stage of HIV. And thanks to the recent HIV medications, only a few people ever get to reach this stage. But to patients who are not aware of their infection, HIV is already on its way, spreading between CD4 cells.

HIV Virus Life Cycle: Developing the diseas

Even with their capacity to illicit diseases, viruses cannot survive on their own. Without another living cell or suitable environment, viruses are not active. But given a chance to invade, they are unstoppable. Through infected fluids and blood, such as sharing needles or unsafe sex practices, HIV gets into your circulation. And its life cycle starts with binding to cells

1. Attachment Or Binding

Many cells comprise the immune system. But HIV particularly infects the ones responsible for fighting off infection, such as the neutrophils and lymphocytes. Due to still unknown reasons, HIV has a predilection to CD4 cells and hijacks the CD4 receptors. The surface proteins on HIV attach to the cell receptor and activate other proteins like the CCR5.

2. Fusion

After the attachment of the receptors, the outer covering of HIV fuses with the cell membrane. This reaction will allow the genetic materials of HIV to enter the cell freely. 

3. Reverse Transcription

HIV virus life cycle and transmission

Even when the HIV genes (RNA) are different from humans (DNA), it does not stop the virus from replicating inside the CD4 cells. After all, with its nucleoside reverse transcriptase, it could easily make a DNA copy of its genes. Hence, this difference does not really make a big hindrance to HIV. Luckily, antiviral drugs like nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors prevent the spread of HIV by inhibiting this gene conversion

4. Integration To Host Genome

Genetic materials are responsible for many things in the body. From the color of your hair to the smallest body protein, all these are dependent on the genes found inside the cell nucleus. And like having a brain of its own, HIV uses another enzyme (Integrase) to incorporate its genes on the normal human genetic copy. 

5. Replication

To make proteins, the cells in the body use the DNA copy in the nucleus. And since the viral DNA has already been integrated earlier, the body does the replication process for the virus. Replication refers to the production of long chains of proteins from the DNA. Since the nucleus cannot distinguish its own material from that of the virus, replication ensues. And viral proteins get produced in the chain alongside the normal proteins.

6. Translation

With the long chains of proteins, translation happens. This process is when another cell part cuts it off and produces smaller forms. And after a few modifications, these proteins become developed and ready for use. The viral proteins acting as building blocks will take a few more steps to create a whole new virus.

7. Assembly And Budding

During this process, the viral proteins and new RNA move to the surface of the cells. Parts will come together to form new HIV particles and are ready to invade other CD4 cells. The viruses will establish their infectivity through final modifications of their protein. These newly formed viruses will then bud off from the CD4 cell. When HIV has been successful in causing infection, this is when symptoms arise. Some early indications include fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes.It is best to see a professional immediately when you suspect infection.

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) For HIV

medicines targeting HIV virus life cycle

The threat of HIV to the immune system has been long noted. And it is through the development of drugs that controlled the spread of HIV. By knowing the life cycle of HIV inside the body, scientists have created medications to offset the virus. Although these drugs do not kill the virus, they keep them below the infectivity level. Thus, limiting transmission. Some medicines used for antiretroviral therapy include:

CCR5 Antagonist

No viral replication happens through this drug. As you know, HIV needs to attach to the host cells. But through the CCR5 antagonist, viral entry into CD4 cells is blocked.

Fusion Inhibitors

Before the virus enters the cell, fusion inhibitors will obstruct its path. This action will prevent the viral life cycle from continuing.

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

This drug will inhibit the enzyme that transforms viral RNA into DNA. And without its transformation, the life cycle of the virus gets disrupted.

Integrase Inhibitors

With these inhibitors, there will be no new viruses. It works by stopping the integration of viral DNA into the normal replication process. Infection between cells is also prevented.

Outlook On HIV

Although HIV infection is aggressive, there are already numerous drugs to control its spread. Hence, when you know someone with HIV, refer them to professionals immediately. These drugs are effective, and their tendency to develop AIDS will depend on it. Besides, more than the threats of HIV, the stigma HIV patients receive is more grave. But by knowing how this virus replicates and how medicines help, the infamy against them will end.

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