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The Aids Epidemic The AIDS virus is one of the most deadly and most wide spread diseases in the modern era The disease was first found in 1981 as doctors around the United States began to report groups of young homosexual men developing a rare pneumonia caused by an organism called Penumocystis carini These patients then went on to develop many other new and rare complications that had previously been seen only in patients with severely damaged immune systems The Center for Disease Control in the United States named this new epidemic the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and defined it by a specific set of symptoms In 1983 researchers finally identified the virus that caused AIDS They named the virus the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV AIDS causes the immune system of the infected patient to become much less efficient until it stops working altogether The first drug that was approved by the American Food and Drug administration for use in treating the AIDS virus is called AZT which stands for azido-thymidine AZT was released under the brand name of Retrovir and its chemical name is Zidovudine or ZDV The structural name of AZT is 3-azido-3- deoxythymidine AZT works by inhibiting the process of copying DNA in cells More specifically AZT inhibits the reverse transcriptase enzyme which is involved in the DNA replication process When DNA is replicating in a cell there is a specific enzyme that works along one side of the original DNA strand as the DNA is split into two strands copying each individual nucleotide This enzyme is only able to work in one direction along the nucleotide string therefore a different enzyme or rather a series of different enzymes is required to work in the opposite direction Reverse transcriptase is one of the enzymes that is required to work in the opposite direction AZT works by bonding to the reverse transcriptase enzyme thereby making it unable to bond
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