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Antiviral agents are a class of medication used for treating viral infections. Most antivirals target specific viruses, while a broad-spectrum antiviral is effective against a wide range of viruses. Unlike most antibiotics, antiviral drugs do not destroy their target pathogen; instead, they inhibit its development. A viral disease is any condition that’s caused by a virus.
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Viruses are much smaller than fungi or bacteria, and they must invade a living cell to reproduce, or replicate. The virus attaches to a cell, enters it, and releases its DNA or RNA inside the cell. The DNA or RNA of the virus is its genetic information, which takes control of the cell and forces it to replicate the virus. The infected cell usually dies because the virus keeps it from performing its normal functions. Before it dies, however, the cell has already released new viruses, which go on to infect other cells.
Viruses are transmitted in a variety of ways, depending on the body system affected. For example, common viruses of the respiratory tract are usually inhaled, and viruses of the digestive tract are often swallowed. Other viral infections are transmitted by the bites of insects and other parasites (such as mosquitoes and ticks). Drugs that fight viral infections are called antiviral drugs. Antiviral agents work by interfering with viral replication.