The many faces of chloroquine

Chloroquine was discovered in Germany in 1934 (as Resochin) but was originally considered too toxic for human use. After American trials of the drug in World War 2 chloroquine became a mainstay of malaria treatment. In recent decades with the advent of worldwide drug resistance its use has declined. With perhaps the exception of Mesoamerica, the use of chloroquine for falciparum malaria is (or should be) minimal. The drug remains vital for vivax malaria, and other than Papua New Guinea, only a few stray case reports of treatment failure exist.

What’s fascinating about the drug is its potential application in other fields. Reported to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and immunosuppressive properties chloroquine has been considered for many uses. Before the days of metronidazole it was a mainstay in the treatment of amoebiasis,  and I believe was used by the famous Dr. Ben Kean in his book M.D. during a fascinating attempt to dislodge the scolex (head) of a tapeworm from the patient’s intestinal wall. In India chloroquine is still used in primary health centers for the treatment of gout and in patients with suspected chikungunya during the recent outbreaks. Let’s see where it goes next.

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