Cures For Viruses

I was told by a doctor that mankind has not discovered a cure to any virus that afflicts humans. Sure, there are vaccines that prevent viruses from festering. But once a human acquires a virus, there are no cures. Is this true?

We have to define a few things.

What do you mean by “cure a virus”? I suspect you mean either cure the infected host, or kill the virus. If you mean kill the virus, then you have to decide whether or not viruses are something that can be killed in the first place. In other words, is a virus alive?

If you decide that viruses are not alive, then what your doctor says makes sense. I mean, no medication exists that can kill my wrist watch either.

But the question is tricky. Bacteria have complex internal systems that metabolize food to make energy, direct reproduction, eliminate waste, etc. Antibiotics can be made to attack these systems thereby killing the bacteria. Viruses don’t metabolize substances around them in order to sustain themselves. In fact, viruses don’t need to interact with the world around them at all, except for the mechanism by which they inject their DNA into host cells so that copies of the virus can be made. There are medications that can act upon this mechanism. This disrupts the life cycle of a virus by preventing it from making copies of itself.

Perhaps radiation “destroys” viruses?

Certainly what your doctor said (and I avoid the semantics of whether viruses are alive, by focusing on the question of cure) used to be correct. But I understand that there are now drugs that can speed up significantly the recover from flu–and that is certainly a virus. In addition, I might point out that drugs like AZT do interfere significantly with the reproduction of HIV. Eventually, HIV mutates to escape domination by AZT and of course it has other side effects, but it definitely stop the reproduction for some time.

Thanks Attrayant. I admit that I don’t know much about this stuff, so my question probably wasn’t clear. But basically, a person inflicted with a cold, influenza, HIV, etc. cannot simply take a medication to rid himself of these diseases. But with bacterial infections, there are cures. This is the distinction that the doctor was making.

And I should point out that context of my conversation with him was about the search for a cure for AIDS. He felt that there is some probability that medical science will invent a vaccine for HIV, but not a cure for it.

We’ve got plenty of antiviral meds that halt viral replication, which essential “cures” viral infections. We have them targeted at Hepatitis B and C, Herpes, and HIV, to name a few. Some work lots better than others. Nothing seems to cure HIV so far, but interferon and ribavirin do knock out the hepatitis C virus from the system in about 35% of treated patients. Herpes antivirals knock out the viral flare symptoms (painful skin lesions), but don’t eliminate the virus from the system.

they’ve got side-effects, and just like with bacteria, those pesky viri are developing resistance!!

But it is incorrect to say there is no virus we can cure.


There are antiviral drugs out there. Some members of the herpesvirus family can be cured. And while HIV can’t be cured, as has been mentioned, there are a LOT of drugs out there that will slow it way the heck down.

Rabies can be completely cured, as I’ve mentioned in other threads, but that’s kind of a special case, since it’s cured with a vaccine that can be administered post-exposure.