Smooth or Risky Revisit of an Old Malaria Drug for COVID-19?

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2020 Jun;15(2):174-180. doi: 10.1007/s11481-020-09923-w. Epub 2020 May 15.


Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is an old medication for malaria. In addition to handling this parasitic disease, HCQ is also used to treat a number of autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus when other medications are not effective. Recently a new viral infection (COVID-19) is rocking the entire world so much that it has already taken more than 200,000 lives throughout the world within the last two months and the World Health Organization was forced to declare it as a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Interestingly, some reports indicate that this wonder drug may be also beneficial for COVID-19 and accordingly, many clinical trials have begun. Here, we discuss different modes of action (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, inhibition of endosomal acidification, suppression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2 glycosylation, etc.) of HCQ that might be responsible for its possible anti-COVID-19 effect. On the other hand, this review also makes an honest attempt to delineate mechanisms (increase in vasoconstriction, inhibition of autophagy, depletion of T cells, etc.) indicating how it may aggravate certain conditions and why caution should be taken before granting widespread repurposing of HCQ for COVID-19. Graphical Abstract.

Keywords: Autophagy; COVID-19; Hydroxychloroquine; Hypertension; Inflammation; Oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology
  • Betacoronavirus / drug effects*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Drug Repositioning
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / pharmacology*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antimalarials
  • Hydroxychloroquine