Structural Biochemistry/Retrovir/AZT

Background InformationEdit


Structural biochemistry has lead to a greater understanding of HIV and has played a key role in the development of drugs that fight it; one such drug is zidovudine, or azidothymine (AZT), which has been sold under the name Retrovir, the first drug to be approved to help treat HIV. AZT is a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor, known as an NRTI. AZT is especially recommended for pregnant women with HIV/AIDS, since taking this drug during pregnancy and labor reduces the chance of mother-child transmission. Side effects include headaches, nausea, and discoloration of fingernails and toenails. More severe side effects include anemia and bone marrow suppression.

Once structural biochemistry recognized HIV as a retrovirus, previously discovered proteins in viruses became drug targets. Retrovir inhibits the action of one of the virus’ enzymes, reverse transcriptase, which makes a DNA copy of its own RNA, allowing it to replicate quickly and encode itself into our genome (which is why there can never be a “cure” for AIDS until we can find a way to cut out the virus’ DNA from our own). If reverse transcriptase is unable to make double stranded viral DNA, it is then unable to integrate its DNA into the genetic material of our cells. However, HIV does become AZT-resistant over time, so AZT is used in a “drug cocktail” in combination with other NRTI’s and protease inhibitors to most effectively combat HIV and AIDS in patients.

Side EffectsEdit

Seek for medical help if you present one or more of the following symptoms below:

  • hives
  • swelling on your lips, face, throat or tongue
  • difficult breathing
  • severe muscle pain
  • pale skin
  • easy bruising
  • unexplained weight loss
  • pale skin
  • loss of bladder control
  • severe lower back pain
  • liver problems
  • pancreatitis
  • severe skin reaction

Less severe symptoms may include:

  • insomnia
  • mild nausea
  • constipation
  • joint pain
  • headache

Incompatibility with other drugsEdit

Retrovir might produce violent reactions if used with the medications below:

  • doxorubicin
  • ganciclovir
  • interferon alfa
  • phenytoin
  • ribavirin
  • drugs that weaken your immune system

ReferencesEdit Biochemistry, Sixth Edition, Berg.