Fatal arrhythmias: Another reason why doctors remain cautious about chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19

Ilija Uzelac, Shahriar Iravanian, Hiroshi Ashikaga, Neal K. Bhatia, Conner Herndon, Abouzar Kaboudian, James C. Gumbart, Elizabeth M. Cherry, Flavio H. Fenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Early during the current coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) received a significant amount of attention as a potential antiviral treatment, such that it became one of the most commonly prescribed medications for COVID-19 patients. However, not only has the effectiveness of HCQ remained questionable, but mainly based on preclinical and a few small clinical studies, HCQ is known to be potentially arrhythmogenic, especially as a result of QT prolongation. Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the arrhythmic effects of HCQ, as the heightened risk is especially relevant to COVID-19 patients, who are at higher risk for cardiac complications and arrhythmias at baseline. Methods: An optical mapping technique utilizing voltage-sensitive fluorescent dyes was used to determine the arrhythmic effects of HCQ in ex vivo guinea pig and rabbit hearts perfused with the upper therapeutic serum dose of HCQ (1000 ng/mL). Results: HCQ markedly increased action potential dispersion, resulted in development of repolarization alternans, and initiated polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. Conclusion: The study results further highlight the proarrhythmic effects of HCQ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1445-1451
Number of pages7
JournalHeart Rhythm
Volume17
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Action potential duration dispersion
  • Arrhythmias
  • Experimental optical mapping
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Long QT syndrome
  • T-wave alternans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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