Understanding HIV and its life cycle

HIV is a deadly virus that directly attacks your immune system. The destruction is beyond repair. People often confuse HIV with AIDS. However, AIDS is the ultimate stage of an HIV infection. So being infected with HIV virus doesn’t mean that you have AIDS.

Basically, there are two kinds of HIV
HIV-1 – This is the one that is responsible for AIDS, and has become a threat to the entire world.
HIV-2 – This causes a condition that is similar to AIDS. It is generally uncommon.

The HIV virus undergoes its own life cycle inside your body. This life cycle has seven stages. For better understanding about how the virus infects your immune system, you must know all these seven stages.

Stage 1 – Binding
The HIV virus attaches or binds itself to CD4+ cells. These cells are a kind of white blood cells and are responsible for a body’s natural defense. There are certain receptors on the wall of the CD4+ cells and the HIV virus binds to those receptors. In this stage, CCR5 antagonist medicines are used to stop further infection.

Stage 2 – Fusion
After binding to the receptor on the wall of the CD4+ cells, the envelope of HIV and the cell membrane of CD4+ cell fuse together. This fusion allows the passage of HIV virus into the CD4+ cell. Certain fusion inhibitors are prescribed by the doctors when the patient reports to them at this stage.

Stage 3 – Reverse transcription
After the HIV cell is inside the host cell, it uses the enzyme reverse transcriptase, which is released by itself, to transform its own RNA to DNA. For this, the virus enters the nucleus of the cell and utilizes the cell’s machinery. At this stage, the doctor prescribes non-nucleoside and sometimes nucleoside inhibitors to stop the infection.

Stage 4 – Integration
Now the HIV virus releases an enzyme with the help of which it can insert its own DNA into the DNA of the host cell inside the nucleus. Integrase inhibitors are used to stop the infection at this phase.

Stage 5 – Replication
After the virus is integrated into the host cell machinery, it starts the replication process. It makes long chains of HIV proteins. When enough protein chains are created, the HIV virus is complete.

Stage 6 – Assembly
After adequate proteins have been accumulated, the proteins and HIV RNA rise up to the surface and assemble the portions together to form an HIV virus.

Stage 7 – Budding
When the formation of new HIV virus is complete, it comes out of the host cell. It releases an enzyme called protease. After it has retained stability, the protease breaks the protein chains that were made from the past immature virus. When these smaller broken proteins begin to mature, they combine to produce a single mature protein.

You should start taking medication at the moment you find out that you have HIV. The medicines may not be able to stop the entire process, but they can definitely slow down the progress and help manage the symptoms.

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