In December 2019, a new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causing coronavirus diseases 2019 (COVID-19) emerged in Wuhan, China. African countries see slower dynamic of COVID-19 cases and deaths. One of the assumptions that may explain this later emergence in Africa, and more particularly in malaria endemic areas, would be the use of antimalarial drugs.
At the end of November 2019, a novel coronavirus responsible for respiratory tract infections (COVID-19) emerged in China. Despite drastic containment measures, this virus, known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), spread in Asia and Europe. The pandemic is ongoing with particular hotspot in Southern Europe and America. Many studies predicted a similar epidemic in Africa as that currently seen in Europe and the United States of America. However, reported data do not confirm these predictions. One of the hypotheses that could explain the later emergence and spread of COVID-19 pandemic in African countries is the use of antimalarial drugs to treat malaria, and more particularly artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).
The COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has been associated with more than 470,000 fatal cases worldwide. In order to develop antiviral interventions quickly, drugs used for treatment of unrelated diseases are currently being repurposed to combat COVID-19. Chloroquine is a anti-malaria drug that is frequently employed for COVID-19 treatment since it inhibits SARS-CoV-2 spread in the kidney-derived cell line Vero1-3.
The pandemic caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is having serious consequences on health and the economy worldwide. All evidence-based treatment strategies need to be considered to combat this new virus. Drugs need to be considered on scientific grounds of efficacy, safety and cost. Chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) are old drugs used in the treatment of malaria; in addition, their antiviral properties have been previously studied, including in coronaviruses, where evidence of efficacy has been found.
The anti-malarial drug Chloroquine (CQ) and its derivative hydroxychloroquine have shown antiviral activities in vitro against many viruses, including coronaviruses, dengue virus and the biosafety level 4 Nipah and Hendra paramyxoviruses. The in vivo efficacy of CQ in the treatment of COVID-19 is currently a matter of debate. CQ is a lysosomotrophic compound that accumulates in lysosomes, as well as in food vacuoles of Plasmodium falciparum. In the treatment of malaria, CQ impairs the digestion and growth of the parasite by increasing the pH of the food vacuole.
The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by SARS-CoV-2, have surpassed 5 million cases globally. Current models suggest that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) will have a similar incidence but substantially lower mortality rate than high-income countries. However, malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are prevalent in LMICs, and coinfections are likely.
Since in vitro studies and a preliminary clinical report suggested the efficacy of chloroquine for COVID-19-associated pneumonia, there is increasing interest in this old antimalarial drug. In this article, we discuss the pharmacokinetics and safety of chloroquine that should be considered in light of use in SARS-CoV-2 infections. Chloroquine is well absorbed and distributes extensively resulting in a large volume of distribution with an apparent and terminal half-life of 1.6 days and 2 weeks, respectively.