Volume 67, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Cardiotoxicity has become a major concern during treatment with antimalarial drugs. Lengthening of the QTc and severe cardiac arrhythmia have been observed, particularly after treatment with halofantrine for chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria. The purpose of this prospective study was to evaluate whether antimalarial agents alter dispersion of the QTc and ventricular repolarization dynamicity. Sixty patients with uncomplicated falciparum malaria were randomly allocated in four groups of 15 patients and treated with quinine, mefloquine, artemether, or halofantrine at recommended doses. Patients in treatment groups were compared with a group including 15 healthy controls with no history of malaria and/or febrile illness within the last month. QTc dispersion was measured on surface electrocardiograms. Repolarization dynamicity was analyzed from Holter recordings, which allow automatic beat-to-beat measurement of QT and RR intervals. Plasma drug concentration was determined by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. No change in QTc dispersion was observed after treatment with quinine, mefloquine, or artemether. Treatment with halofantrine was followed by a significant increase in QTc dispersion at 9 hours (P < 0.0001) and 24 hours (P < 0.01). Assessment of QT heart rate variability by QT/RR nychtohemeral regression slope demonstrated no significant difference between the artemether (mean +/- SEM = 0.170 +/- 0.048), mefloquine (0.145 +/- 0.044), and the control groups (0.172 +/- 0.039). A significant decrease in the Q-eT/RR slope was observed in the quinine group compared with the control and artemether groups (0.135 +/- 0.057; P < 0.04). With halofantrine, a significant increase in the QT/RR regression slope (0.289 +/- 0.118) was observed (P < 0.0002). QTc interval, QT dispersion, and QT regression slope were significantly correlated with halofantrine and quinine plasma concentration. Mefloquine and artemether did not alter ventricular repolarization. Quinine induced a significant decrease in QT/RR slope of the same order of magnitude as those previously observed with quinidine. Both QTc dispersion and QT/RR slope were significantly modified by halofantrine. These repolarization changes were related to a class-III antiarrhythmic drug effect and may explain the occurrence of ventricular arrhythmia and/or sudden deaths reported after halofantrine intake.


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