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Lancet Infect Dis. 2011 Sep;11(9):677-83. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70065-2. Epub 2011 May 5.

Chloroquine for influenza prevention: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial.

Author information

  • 1Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore. nick.paton@ctu.mrc.ac.uk

Erratum in

  • Lancet Infect Dis. 2011 Sep;11(9):655. Smith, Annelies Wilder [corrected to Wilder-Smith, Annelies].

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Chloroquine has in-vitro activity against influenza and could be an ideal candidate for worldwide prevention of influenza in the period between onset of a pandemic with a virulent influenza strain and the development and widespread dissemination of an effective vaccine. We aimed to assess the efficacy of such an intervention.

METHODS:

In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial done at a single centre in Singapore, we randomly assigned (1:1) healthy adults to receive chloroquine phosphate (500 mg/day for 1 week, then once a week to complete 12 weeks) or matching placebo by use of a computer-generated randomisation list. Participants filled an online symptom diary every week, supplemented by daily diaries and self-administered nasal swabs when unwell. Haemagglutination-inhibition assays for influenza A (H1N1, H3N2) and B were done on blood samples taken at baseline and after 12 weeks. The primary outcome was laboratory-confirmed clinical influenza defined by specific symptoms accompanied by influenza RNA on nasal swabs or a four-fold increase in haemagglutination-inhibition titres over the 12-week study period. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01078779.

FINDINGS:

From November, 2009, to February, 2010, we recruited 1516 eligible participants. 1496 (96%) returned at week 12 and were included in the efficacy analysis. Adherence to study intervention was 97%, and 94% of the scheduled weekly diaries were completed. Eight (1%) of 738 participants had laboratory-confirmed clinical influenza in the placebo group and 12 (2%) of 724 in the chloroquine group (relative risk 1·53, 95% CI 0·63-3·72; p=0·376). 29 (4%) of 738 had laboratory-confirmed influenza infection (symptomatic or asymptomatic) in the placebo group and 38 (5%) of 724 in the chloroquine group (1·34, 0·83-2·14; p=0·261). 249 (33%) of 759 participants reported adverse events (mostly mild) in the placebo group and 341 (45%) of 757 in chloroquine group (p<0·0001). Headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea, and blurred vision were more common in the chloroquine group, but rarely resulted in treatment discontinuation. One serious adverse event (hepatitis) was possibly related to chloroquine.

INTERPRETATION:

Although generally well tolerated by a healthy community population, chloroquine does not prevent infection with influenza. Alternative drugs are needed for large-scale prevention of influenza.

FUNDING:

National Medical Research Council, Singapore.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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PMID:
21550310
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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