Drug might limit effects of strokes

October 04, 2007|By Thomas H. Maugh II

Administering the antibiotic minocycline within 24 hours after a stroke significantly reduces brain damage and physical impairment, Israeli researchers reported Tuesday.

Researchers hope the drug, which also combats inflammation, might prolong the "golden window" during which strokes can be treated.

Clot-dissolving drugs -- the current gold standard for stroke treatment -- must be administered to stroke victims in the first three hours to be effective, and many patients do not receive them in time.

If the study can be replicated, "minocycline could be an important means of reducing the disabling effects of stroke," said Dr. Steven V. Pacia, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who was not involved in the study.

The findings, published in the journal Neurology, will not change clinical practice any time soon, noted Dr. John R. Marler, associate director for clinical trials at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke. "They were looking for signs that it might be effective, and they concluded that it might be. We need a larger trial" to be sure, he said.

The findings have nothing to do with infections, even though the drug is an antibiotic. Rather, the drug also has anti-inflammatory properties that might block damage to neurons from toxins released when other brain cells die, said Dr. Raymond A. Swanson of the University of California, San Francisco.

The antibiotic is being studied in a variety of trials to determine if it can protect brain cells in Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and traumatic brain injury, he said.

Thomas H. Maugh II writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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