Oral antivirals for the prevention and treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection

AIDS Rev. 2022 Mar 1;24(1):41-49. doi: 10.24875/AIDSRev.22000001.


Vaccines and antivirals are the classical weapons deployed to contain, prevent, and treat life-threatening viral illnesses. Specifically, for SARS-CoV-2 infection, vaccines protect against severe COVID-19 disease manifestations and complications. However, waning immunity and emergence of vaccine escape mutants remains a growing threat. This is highlighted by the current surge of the omicron COVID-19 variant. Thus, there is a race to find treatment alternatives. We contend that oral small molecule antivirals that halt SARSCoV- 2 infection are essential. Compared to currently available monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir, where parenteral administration is required, oral antivirals offer treatments in an outpatient setting with dissemination available on a larger scale. In response to this need at 2021's end, regulatory agencies provided emergency use authorization for both molnupiravir and nirmatrelvir. These medicines act on the viral polymerase and protease, respectively. Each is given for 5 days and can reduce disease progression by 30% and 89%, respectively. The advent of additional oral antivirals, the assessment of combination therapies, the formulation of extended-release medications, and their benefit for both early treatment and prophylaxis will likely transform the landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Antiviral Therapy; Combination Therapy; Long-ActingAntivirals; Molnupiravir; Mutagenesis; Nirmatrelvir; Oral Remdesivir; Prophylaxis; Protease Inhibitors; SARS-CoV-2.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • COVID-19* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Antiviral Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants