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Study finds medication prevents travelers' diarrhea

HOUSTON (Embargoed to 4 p.m. CDT, Monday May 16) An antibiotic can be safely used to prevent attacks of diarrhea that plague millions of globe-trotting vacationers and business travelers, a Houston research team reports this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Our findings show that rifaximin is an ideal drug for prevention of travelers' diarrhea, an illness that affects an estimated 20 million international travelers each year," said lead author Herbert DuPont, M.D., director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston and chief of internal medicine at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital.

"This medication's effectiveness, lack of side effects, and its ability to avoid development of resistant strains of bacteria will allow us to change the way we manage this disease," DuPont said.

The clinical trial reported this week followed 210 U.S. students studying Spanish in Mexico during the summer of 2003. Only 14.74 percent of those who took a daily dose of rifaximin for two weeks suffered from diarrhea, while 53.7 percent of those who took placebos came down with the illness, which also includes nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.

Traveler's diarrhea has been treated for years by antibiotics because it is caused by bacteria found mainly in local food. DuPont's group previously showed that rifaximin is safe and effective therapy for the illness in studies carried out in Mexico, Peru, India and Kenya. The antibiotic has been available in Europe and elsewhere for years to treat diarrhea. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the antibiotic for treatment of traveler's diarrhea a year ago.

But would the treatment also prevent the whole unpleasant experience? And, importantly, would it do so without provoking development of a drug-resistant response by the targeted bacteria?

This last point is crucial, DuPont said, because using other antibiotics such as Cip
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Contact: Scott Merville
scott.merville@uth.tmc.edu
713-500-3042
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
16-May-2005


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