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Aspirin shows promise in combating a common, antibiotic-induced hearing loss

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Around the world, inexpensive antibiotics known as aminoglycosides have been used for the past 60 years in the battles against acute infections and tuberculosis as antibacterial prophylaxis in cystic fibrosis patients and in other conditions. But for all of the good they do, the drugs also have been widely linked to irreversible hearing loss.

Now, researchers at the University of Michigan's Kresge Hearing Research Institute and their Chinese colleagues, working under the leadership of Jochen Schacht, Ph.D., and Su-Hua Sha, M.D., have found that the hearing loss can be prevented in many people with the use of another inexpensive, widely available medication: aspirin. The results appear in the April 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers studied 195 patients in China who received 80 to 160 milligrams of gentamicin (a type of aminoglycoside) intravenously twice daily, typically for five to seven days. Of those, 89 patients were given aspirin along with the antibiotic, and 106 were given placebos along with the antibiotic. The results were dramatic: The incidence of hearing loss in the group that was given placebos was 13 percent, while in the aspirin group it was just 3 percent, or 75 percent lower.

"We would like to see the word get around to the medical community around the world that you can take some precautions to minimize the risk to your patients. Aspirin is available everywhere, and it's cheap," says senior author Schacht, professor of biological chemistry in otolaryngology at the University of Michigan Medical School and director of the U-M Health System's Kresge Hearing Research Institute. Gentamicin is not commonly used in the United States.

He notes that this research builds on earlier U-M studies that showed promise in combating drug-induced hearing loss in the laboratory. "Previously we found that such a treatment works well in mice, but I am very excited that this worked so well
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Contact: Katie Gazella or Sally Pobojewski
kgazella@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
26-Apr-2006


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