A phase 2a clinical trial of molnupiravir in patients with COVID-19 shows accelerated SARS-CoV-2 RNA clearance and elimination of infectious virus

Sci Transl Med. 2022 Jan 19;14(628):eabl7430. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abl7430. Epub 2022 Jan 19.


There is an urgent need for an effective, oral, direct-acting therapeutic to block transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and prevent progression to severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In a phase 2a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, multicenter clinical trial, we evaluated the safety, tolerability, and antiviral efficacy of the nucleoside analog molnupiravir in 202 unvaccinated participants with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptom duration <7 days. Participants were randomized 1:1 to receive molnupiravir (200 mg) or placebo and then 3:1 to receive molnupiravir (400 or 800 mg) or placebo, orally twice daily for 5 days. Antiviral activity was assessed by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in nasopharyngeal swabs. Infectious virus was assessed by inoculation of cultured Vero cells with samples from nasopharyngeal swabs and was detected by RT-PCR. Time to viral RNA clearance (primary endpoint) was decreased in the 800-mg molnupiravir group (median 14 days) compared to the placebo group (median 15 days) (log rank P value = 0.013). Of participants receiving 800 mg of molnupiravir, 92.5% achieved viral RNA clearance compared with 80.3% of placebo recipients by study end (4 weeks). Infectious virus (secondary endpoint) was detected in swabs from 1.9% of the 800-mg molnupiravir group compared with 16.7% of the placebo group at day 3 of treatment (P = 0.016). At day 5 of treatment, infectious virus was not isolated from any participants receiving 400 or 800 mg of molnupiravir compared with 11.1% of placebo recipients (P = 0.034 and 0.027, respectively). Molnupiravir was well tolerated across all doses.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Cytidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylamines
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vero Cells


  • Hydroxylamines
  • RNA, Viral
  • Cytidine
  • molnupiravir