Detecting Novel Ototoxins and Potentiation of Ototoxicity by Disease Settings

Allison B. Coffin, Robert Boney, Jordan Hill, Cong Tian, Peter S. Steyger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Over 100 drugs and chemicals are associated with permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, and vestibular deficits, collectively known as ototoxicity. The ototoxic potential of drugs is rarely assessed in pre-clinical drug development or during clinical trials, so this debilitating side-effect is often discovered as patients begin to report hearing loss. Furthermore, drug-induced ototoxicity in adults, and particularly in elderly patients, may go unrecognized due to hearing loss from a variety of etiologies because of a lack of baseline assessments immediately prior to novel therapeutic treatment. During the current pandemic, there is an intense effort to identify new drugs or repurpose FDA-approved drugs to treat COVID-19. Several potential COVID-19 therapeutics are known ototoxins, including chloroquine (CQ) and lopinavir-ritonavir, demonstrating the necessity to identify ototoxic potential in existing and novel medicines. Furthermore, several factors are emerging as potentiators of ototoxicity, such as inflammation (a hallmark of COVID-19), genetic polymorphisms, and ototoxic synergy with co-therapeutics, increasing the necessity to evaluate a drug's potential to induce ototoxicity under varying conditions. Here, we review the potential of COVID-19 therapies to induce ototoxicity and factors that may compound their ototoxic effects. We then discuss two models for rapidly detecting the potential for ototoxicity: mammalian auditory cell lines and the larval zebrafish lateral line. These models offer considerable value for pre-clinical drug development, including development of COVID-19 therapies. Finally, we show the validity of in silico screening for ototoxic potential using a computational model that compares structural similarity of compounds of interest with a database of known ototoxins and non-ototoxins. Preclinical screening at in silico, in vitro, and in vivo levels can provide an earlier indication of the potential for ototoxicity and identify the subset of candidate therapeutics for treating COVID-19 that need to be monitored for ototoxicity as for other widely-used clinical therapeutics, like aminoglycosides and cisplatin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number725566
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - Aug 17 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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