Treatment with chloroquine is retinotoxic in captive African penguins (Speniscus demersus). Attenuation and recovery of electroretinographic responses

Maya Ross, Nili Avni-Magen, Oren Pe'er, Asaf Berkowitz, Ron Ofri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate the effect of prophylactic anti-malarial chloroquine treatment, and its cessation, on electroretinographic (ERG) responses of captive African penguins. Methods: A brief ERG protocol (“QuickRetCheck”) was recorded under mesopic conditions with manual restraint and no sedation or pupil dilation. Birds were recorded on two separate occasions, first while being treated with a daily chloroquine dose of 10 mg/kg for 12 days (n = 15, treatment group) and second after 4 months without chloroquine treatment (n = 6, off-treatment group). Three birds were recorded on both occasions. Three other birds from the flock that died were studied histopathologically. Results: Scotopic responses were unmeasurable in either recording and therefore were not analyzed. Mean a- and b-wave amplitudes of the mixed rod-cone responses to standard (3 cd·s/m2) and high (10 cd·s/m2) intensity flashes were higher in the off-treatment group. No difference in implicit times was observed. Sex, age, and number of previous chloroquine treatments did not affect ERG responses. Histopathology revealed Plasmodium the lungs, liver, and brain, but not in the eyes, of the necropsied birds, and there were no signs of retinitis or retinopathy. Conclusions: Daily chloroquine treatment was associated with attenuated ERG responses in penguins, which improve following cessation of treatment. Further work is warranted to establish a chloroquine dose that is efficacious yet has minimal adverse effects. Our results suggest that ERG responses of captive penguins undergoing ERG for any indication (such as prior to cataract surgery), must be evaluated in light of the birds' anti-malaria treatment status.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)336-345
Number of pages10
JournalVeterinary Ophthalmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists


  • ERG
  • Plasmodium
  • avian malaria
  • chloroquine
  • penguin
  • retinal toxicity


Dive into the research topics of 'Treatment with chloroquine is retinotoxic in captive African penguins (Speniscus demersus). Attenuation and recovery of electroretinographic responses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this