What is abacavir?

Updated: Dec 07, 2018
  • Author: Ali Torkamani, PhD; Chief Editor: Karl S Roth, MD  more...
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Abacavir is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor used in conjunction with other antiretroviral agents in the treatment of HIV infection. [1, 2] HIV, a positive single-stranded RNA virus, undergoes reverse transcription to produce double-stranded viral DNA, which is subsequently incorporated into the host genome and used to produce viral progeny using the host's cellular machinery. Abacavir competes with naturally occurring deoxynucleotides during the viral reverse transcription process. When incorporated into the growing viral DNA strand, abacavir blocks further strand elongation, leading to a premature halt in viral DNA synthesis and chain termination.

Abacavir is generally well tolerated but can cause hypersensitivity in 5 to 8% of patients during the first 6 weeks of treatment. [3] Symptoms include fever, rash, constitutional symptoms, gastrointestinal tract symptoms, and respiratory symptoms. Symptoms worsen with continued usage and can be potentially life threatening if the patient is rechallenged after discontinuation. [3]

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