In the early 1980s many institutions in Britain were seriously considering whether there was a need for specialist departments of virology. The arrival of HIV changed that perception and since then virology and antiviral chemotherapy have become two very active areas of bio-medical research. Cloning and sequencing have provided tools to identify viral enzymes and have brought the day of the "designer drug" nearer to reality. At the other end of the spectrum of drug discovery, huge numbers of compounds for screening can now be generated by combinatorial chemistry. The impetus to find drugs effective against HIV has also stimulated research into novel treatments for other virus infections including herpesvirus, respiratory infections, and hepatitis B and C viruses. The need to understand the function of the immune system during HIV infection has brought virologists and immunologists together into new partnerships. The huge increase in activity in antiviral research is reflected in the frequency with which these drugs are now being licensed: in 1985 there were two licensed antiviral drugs for systemic use. Since then approximately 20 compounds have been licensed and more are being submitted to the regulatory authorities on a regular basis.
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