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Chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) have been proposed as treatments for COVID-19. These drugs have been studied for many decades, primarily in the context of their use as antimalarials, where they induce oxidative stress-killing of the malarial parasite. Less appreciated, however, is evidence showing that CQ/HCQ causes systemic oxidative stress. In vitro and observational data suggest that CQ/HCQ can be repurposed as potential antiviral medications. This review focuses on the potential health concerns of CQ/HCQ induced by oxidative stress, particularly in the hyperinflammatory stage of COVID-19 disease. The pathophysiological role of oxidative stress in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) has been well-documented. Additional oxidative stress caused by CQ/HCQ during ARDS could be problematic. In vitro data showing that CQ forms a complex with free-heme that promotes lipid peroxidation of phospholipid bilayers are also relevant to COVID-19. Free-heme induced oxidative stress is implicated as a systemic activator of coagulation, which is increasingly recognized as a contributor to COVID-19 morbidity. This review will also provide a brief overview of CQ/HCQ pharmacology with an emphasis on how these drugs alter proton fluxes in subcellular organelles. CQ/HCQ-induced alterations in proton fluxes influence the type and chemical reactivity of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.