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What Is Abacavir Sulfate?

By H. Lo
Updated May 17, 2024
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Abacavir sulfate is a type of medication known as a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI); this medication treats the spread of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection within a person’s body. In general, it comes in the form of a solution or tablet and works by blocking the virus from continuously infecting healthy cells. As with any medication, abacavir sulfate can cause a person to experience side effects, some of which are anxiety, difficulty sleeping and headache. Serious side effects include blisters, chills and difficulty breathing or swallowing. This medication also can also cause a dangerous allergic reaction that can lead to death, so if signs of an allergy arise, the affected person should speak with his doctor immediately.

To understand how abacavir sulfate works, it is probably a good idea to have some background information on HIV. An HIV infection is a serious medical condition since it eventually damages a person’s immune system. The late stage of HIV is actually acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which can lead to death, because at this stage, the body’s immune system cannot defend itself from infections and diseases to the same degree a healthy immune system can. As such, it is imperative for a person’s health that an HIV infection is not allowed to progress or spread as fast as it normally can. This is where a medication like abacavir sulfate comes into the picture.

HIV spreads by infecting new cells, and the human body constantly produces new cells. For the virus to infect a new cell, it needs to contain new deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). To produce this new DNA, the virus needs a chemical called deoxyguanosine triphosphate. This chemical is similar to another chemical known as carbovir triphosphate, which also happens to be abacavir sulfate in its active form. When the body converts abacavir sulfate into this active form, the virus uses it instead of deoxyguanosine triphosphate and, thus, is unable to complete its infection of a new cell.

Although abacavir sulfate treats an HIV infection, it does not cure it, nor does it kill any cells that are already infected with the virus. In addition, the medication does not prevent a person with an HIV infection from developing an illness related to the virus, and it does not prevent the infected person from passing the virus on to another person as well. Abacavir sulfate can be a part of a treatment regimen for an HIV infection that involves the use of other medications.

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