Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a drug normally used to treat malaria, has recently been touted as a potential treatment for coronavirus. International interest in the drug was raised following reports of US President Donald Trump taking the drug to ward off COVID-19 and there have been clinical trials in several countries testing its effectiveness. However, many scientists have warned about side effects of using HCQ, which has led to the World Health Organisation temporarily suspending several studies over safety fears.
Recent reports on the use of HCQ alone, or combined with an antibiotic called azithromycin (AZM), in the management of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have specifically raised concerns over cardiac safety. However, so far little has been known about the mechanisms behind HCQ and AZM therapy to help evaluate cardiac safety, and therefore conclusively determine if it is unsafe for the heart.
A new international study, on which the DPAG groups of Professor David Paterson, with Dr Dan Li, and Associate Professor Neil Herring have collaborated, has provided mechanistic insight into how HCQ alone and HCQ with AZM affects cardiac electrophysiology.