Acceleration of viral replication and up-regulation of cytokine levels by antimalarials: implications in malaria-endemic areas.

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  • 1 Center for Combat Casualty and Life Sustainment Research, Department of Pathology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814, USA.

Antimalarial drugs are widely used in malaria endemic areas, both for chemoprophylaxis and also empirically to treat patients presenting with fever. Previously, we have reported that chloroquine enhances the severity of Semliki forest virus (SFV) and encephalomyocarditis virus infection. The studies presented herein show that a broad spectrum of antimalarial drugs augmented the replication of SFV in mice, concomitant with greater tissue damage and up-regulation of mRNA levels of various inflammatory cytokine genes, including interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), II-1alpha, IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-12p40, and interferon-gamma inducing factor. Furthermore, chloroquine enhances IL-1Ra production in RAW cells in vitro. Since IL-1Ra is known to be up-regulated in a number of viral infections, we propose that a further enhancement of its expression by antimalarials may be responsible for the increased severity of viral infection in our studies. Thus, the widespread use of antimalarials in malaria-endemic areas may predispose the population to viral infections. Further studies are in progress to delineate mechanism(s) involved in cytokine up-regulation and acceleration of viral replication.