Chloroquine could be used for the treatment of filoviral infections and other viral infections that emerge or emerged from viruses requiring an acidic pH for infectivity

Cell Biochem Funct. 2016 Jun;34(4):191-6. doi: 10.1002/cbf.3182. Epub 2016 Mar 21.


Viruses from the Filoviridae family, as many other virus families, require an acidic pH for successful infection and are therefore susceptible to the actions of 4-aminoquinolines, such as chloroquine. Although the mechanisms of action of chloroquine clearly indicate that it might inhibit filoviral infections, several clinical trials that attempted to use chloroquine in the treatment of other acute viral infections - including dengue and influenza A and B - caused by low pH-dependent viruses, have reported that chloroquine had no clinical efficacy, and these results demoted chloroquine from the potential treatments for other virus families requiring low pH for infectivity. The present review is aimed at investigating whether chloroquine could combat the present Ebola virus epidemic, and also at exploring the main reasons for the reported lack of efficacy. Literature was sourced from PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar, reference list of articles and textbooks - Fields Virology (Volumes 1and 2), the cytokine handbook, Pharmacology in Medicine: Principles and Practice, and hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine retinopathy. The present analysis concludes that (1) chloroquine might find a place in the treatment of Ebola, either as a monotherapy or in combination therapies; (2) the ineffectiveness of chloroquine, or its analogue, hydroxychloroquine, at treating infections from low pH-dependent viruses is a result of the failure to attain and sustain a steady state concentration sufficient to increase and keep the pH of the acidic organelles to approximately neutral levels; (3) to successfully treat filoviral infections - or other viral infections that emerge or emerged from low pH-dependent viruses - a steady state chloroquine plasma concentration of at least 1 µg/mL(~3.125 μM/L) or a whole blood concentration of 16 μM/L must be achieved and be sustained until the patients' viraemia becomes undetectable. These concentrations, however, do not rule out the efficacy of other, higher, steady state concentrations - although such concentrations might be accompanied by severe adverse effects or toxicities. The feasibility of the conclusion in the preceding texts has recently been supported by a subsequent study that shows that amodiaquine, a derivative of CQ, is able to protect humans infected with Ebola from death.

Keywords: Ebola virus; Marburg virus; chloroquine; hydroxychloroquine; necrosis and apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chloroquine / pharmacology
  • Chloroquine / therapeutic use*
  • Filoviridae / drug effects
  • Filoviridae / pathogenicity*
  • Filoviridae Infections / drug therapy*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Immunomodulation / drug effects
  • Organelles / drug effects
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Tropism / drug effects


  • Chloroquine