We report on chloroquine, a 4-amino-quinoline, as an effective inhibitor of the replication of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in vitro. Chloroquine is a clinically approved drug effective against malaria. We tested chloroquine phosphate for its antiviral potential against SARS-CoV-induced cytopathicity in Vero E6 cell culture. Results indicate that the IC50 of chloroquine for antiviral activity (8.8 +/- 1.2 microM) was significantly lower than its cytostatic activity; CC50 (261.3 +/- 14.5 microM), yielding a selectivity index of 30. The IC50 of chloroquine for inhibition of SARS-CoV in vitro approximates the plasma concentrations of chloroquine reached during treatment of acute malaria. Addition of chloroquine to infected cultures could be delayed for up to 5h postinfection, without an important drop in antiviral activity. Chloroquine, an old antimalarial drug, may be considered for immediate use in the prevention and treatment of SARS-CoV infections.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Inc.