If you've ever had a bacterial infection like staph or strep throat, your doctor may have prescribed penicillin. But if you've had the flu or a common cold virus, penicillin won't work. That's because antibacterials only kill bacteria, and both the flu and the common cold are viruses. So for illnesses like the flu, doctors prescribe antiviral drugs, which target the mechanisms that viruses use to reproduce.
"For example, there are antivirals for the flu that interfere with the virus as it tries to get out of its host cell," says science writer Carl Zimmer. "So this molecule latches on to that particular protein that the virus uses to escape, and interferes with it so that the virus is trapped inside."
Zimmer's latest piece for Wired magazine profiles the scientists who are developing antiviral medications, and examines the new ways medicine is working to attack viruses.
Click "source" to read more. Carl Zimmer's blog post from Wired Science - "Antiviral Drugs Could Blast the Common Cold—Should We Use Them?" - http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/ff_antivirals/all/1