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Treating bacterial infections can help asthmatics

A new study indicates that many patients with asthma may have bacterial infections in their lungs, and that treatment with antibiotics can improve their ability to breathe. Researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center report in the June issue of the journal Chest that 31 of 55 chronic, stable asthmatics showed evidence of infection with mycoplasma or chlamydia bacteria. After six weeks of treatment with the antibiotic clarithromycin, these patients demonstrated clinically significant improvements in their lung function.

"We believe that antibiotics may become an important addition to the therapeutic options for some patients with asthma," said Richard Martin, M.D., Professor of Medicine at National Jewish and co-author of the paper. "However, diagnosis of chlamydia or mycoplasma infection requires an invasive procedure. At the present time only select centers can appropriately perform the necessary tests. We are working on simpler methods to make the diagnosis easier."

The researchers took multiple tissue samples from the upper and lower airways of 55 adults with mild to moderate asthma. They looked for evidence of bacterial infections by culturing tissue samples and performing genetic analyses. None of the tissue cultures grew any bacteria, but DNA from Mycoplasma pneumoniae or Chlamydia pneumoniae were detected in samples from 31 of the 55, or 56%, of the patients.

Before antibiotic treatment began, there were no significant differences in lung function between those showing evidence of bacterial infection and those showing none. Lung function was evaluated by measuring the amount of air patients could exhale in one second, called forced expiratory volume in one second or FEV1.

Twenty-six of the patients then took 500 milligrams of the antibiotic clarithromycin twice a day for six weeks while continuing their standard asthma medications. Twenty-six other asthma patients continued their standard asthma medications an
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Contact: William Allstetter
allstetterw@njc.org
303-398-1002
National Jewish Medical and Research Center
11-Jun-2002


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