COVID-19 drugs in aquatic systems: a review

Willis Gwenzi, Rangabhashiyam Selvasembian, Nnanake-Abasi O. Offiong, Alaa El Din Mahmoud, Edmond Sanganyado, Joyabrata Mal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The outbreak of the human coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has induced an unprecedented increase in the use of several old and repurposed therapeutic drugs such as veterinary medicines, e.g. ivermectin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, protein and peptide therapeutics, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs and antimalarial drugs, antiretrovirals, analgesics, and supporting agents, e.g. azithromycin and corticosteroids. Excretion of drugs and their metabolites in stools and urine release these drugs into wastewater, and ultimately into surface waters and groundwater systems. Here, we review the sources, behaviour, environmental fate, risks, and remediation of those drugs. We discuss drug transformation in aquatic environments and in wastewater treatment systems. Degradation mechanisms and metabolite toxicity are poorly known. Potential risks include endocrine disruption, acute and chronic toxicity, disruption of ecosystem functions and trophic interactions in aquatic organisms, and the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1275-1294
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


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