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Study Shows Antibiotic Harms ALS Patients
Date:11/1/2007

Researchers hoped minocycline might have helped those with Lou Gehrig's disease

THURSDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A trial of the antibiotic minocycline against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- Lou Gehrig's disease -- has been halted because patients taking the drug had a significantly accelerated decline in neurological function.

The finding calls into question plans to try minocycline against other neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, said a report published online Nov. 1 in Lancet Neurology.

The study was led by the U.S. Western ALS Study Group.

"There were early indications in animal trials that it [minocycline] might be beneficial," said Robert P. Bowser, director of the University of Pittsburgh ALS research center.

But in a randomized trial that included 412 people with ALS, nerve function in those treated with minocycline deteriorated at a 25 percent faster rate than in those taking a placebo, the researchers reported.

The reason for the accelerated damage isn't known, Bowser said. "Part of the story is trying to figure out the pathway by which the drug is having the effect," he said.

ALS is a disease that attacks motor nerves and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. The only known cause of ALS is a mutation of a gene designated SOD1, which is to blame for a limited number of cases. The Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig is the best-known victim of ALS, but it has also cut short the lives of other athletes, such as pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter, as well as former New York Sen. Jacob Javits and the actor David Niven. About 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time, according to the ALS Association.

Only one drug, Riluzole, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of ALS. It provides a slight improvement in survival time. "Several drugs are currently in trial, and some look interesting
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