Detection and quantification of Covid-19 antiviral drugs in biological fluids and tissues

Talanta. 2021 Mar 1;224:121862. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2020.121862. Epub 2020 Nov 5.


Since coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) started as a fast-spreading pandemic, causing a huge number of deaths worldwide, several therapeutic options have been tested to counteract or reduce the clinical symptoms of patients infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Currently, no specific drugs for COVID-19 are available, but many antiviral agents have been authorised by several national agencies. Most of them are under investigation in both preclinical and clinical trials; however, pharmacokinetic and metabolism studies are needed to identify the most suitable dose to achieve the desired effect on SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, the efforts of the scientific community have focused on the screening of therapies able to counteract the most severe effects of the infection, as well as on the search of sensitive and selective analytical methods for drug detection in biological matrices, both fluids and tissues. In the last decade, many analytical methods have been proposed for the detection and quantification of antiviral compounds currently being tested for COVID-19 treatment. In this review, a critical discussion on the overall analytical procedure is provided, i.e (a) sample pre-treatment and extraction methods such as protein precipitation (PP), solid-phase extraction (SPE), liquid-liquid extraction (LLE), ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE) and QuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged and safe), (b) detection and quantification methods such as potentiometry, spectrofluorimetry and mass spectrometry (MS) as well as (c) methods including a preliminary separation step, such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and capillary electrophoresis (CE) coupled to UV-Vis or MS detection. Further current trends, advantages and disadvantages and prospects of these methods have been discussed, to help the analytical advances in reducing the harm caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Keywords: Analytical methods; Antivirals; Biological matrices; Liquid chromatography; Mass spectrometry; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / analysis*
  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry
  • Antiviral Agents / isolation & purification
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • Chemical Fractionation
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / drug effects
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Antiviral Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19 drug treatment