Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a group of RNA viruses that are associated with different diseases in animals, birds, and humans. Human CoVs (HCoVs) have long been known to be the causative agents of mild respiratory illnesses. However, two HCoVs associated with severe respiratory diseases are Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-CoV (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-CoV (MERS-CoV). Both viruses resulted in hundreds of deaths after spreading to several countries. Most recently, SARS-CoV-2 has emerged as the third HCoV causing severe respiratory distress syndrome and viral pneumonia (known as COVID-19) in patients from Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Soon after its discovery, SARS-CoV-2 spread to all countries, resulting in millions of cases and thousands of deaths. Since the emergence of SARS-CoV, many research groups have dedicated their resources to discovering effective antivirals that can treat such life-threatening infections. The rapid spread and high fatality rate of SARS-CoV-2 necessitate the quick discovery of effective antivirals to control this outbreak. Since SARS-CoV-2 shares 79% sequence identity with SARS-CoV, several anti-SARS-CoV drugs have shown promise in limiting SARS-CoV-2 replication in vitro and in vivo. In this review, we discuss antivirals described for SARS-CoV and provide an update on therapeutic strategies and antivirals against SARS-CoV-2. The control of the current outbreak will strongly depend on the discovery of effective and safe anti-SARS-CoV-2 drugs.
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