Antibiotics protect nerves too | HT Tech

Antibiotics protect nerves too

If the drugs produce the same effect in humans as they did in mice, researchers believe they could help prevent nerve damage.

| Updated on: Feb 02 2005, 12:46 IST

Antibiotics could one day be used for more than killing bacteria and may help patients suffering from neurological diseases, scientists said on Wednesday.

If a family of antibiotics, which include penicillin, produces the same effect in humans as they did in mice, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland believe the drugs could help to prevent nerve damage and death in illnesses such dementia, stroke and epilepsy.

'We're very excited by these drugs' abilities,' Jeffrey Rothstein, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at the university, said in a statement.

In studies of mice genetically engineered to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, Rothstein and his team discovered that daily injections of the drug ceftriaxone improved survival and reduced symptoms of the progressive disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord causing paralysis and death.

Ceftriaxone is produced by Roche Holding AG (ROG.VX) under the brand name Rocephin.

They found that the drug turned on a gene that increased the number of transporters that remove the brain chemical glutamate from nerves. Glutamate usually helps electrical signals travel from one nerve to another but too much of the chemical can kill nerves.

'Because we study ALS, we tested the drugs in a mouse model of that disease, but this is much bigger than ALS. This approach has potential applications in numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions that arise from abnormal control of glutamate,' Rothstein, who reported the findings in the science journal Nature, explained.

Although it is early research and clinical trials in humans are needed to prove if the drugs can help patients, the scientists said the results are encouraging despite the fact that the mice treated with the antibiotic were eventually paralysed.

'If we can find drugs that protect against other causes of nerve death in ALS, the combination might offer a real therapy, much like using drug combinations to treat cancer,' said Rothstein.

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First Published Date: 06 Jan, 13:13 IST