New Hope for Alzheimer's Disease?
While not quite ready for prime-time, researchers
are encouraged by the recent results of a small (101patients) study done in
Canada in which Alzheimer's patients treated for three month with two common
antibiotics (doxycycline and rifampin) had significantly less mental decline
than those given placebo. While the precise cause of Alzheimer's disease is
still unknown, this suggests that an infectious or inflammatory process may
be at least partially responsible. One theory is that a common bacteria that
causes pneumonia and similar illnesses might play a role in causing Alzheimer's.
Although patients in this study showed significant improvement after antibiotic
therapy, this study was not able to document that levels of the bacteria were
reduced as significantly as would be expected. Researchers suggested that the
antibiotic regimen worked by inhibiting the characteristic Alzheimer's plaque
accumulation in the brain. This is the suggested mechanism of action for the
potential role of statins in the treatment of Alzheimer's which is also currently
While it's easy for relatives of the 4.5 million
Americans afflicted by Alzheimer's disease to get excited by any news of encouraging
new research, this news has to be put into perspective. In any disease area,
it is not advisable to jump to conclusions based upon the results of one small
study. And while there certainly is not enough data to recommend antibiotic
treatment to Alzheimer's patients at large, this data will be useful in guiding
and suggesting further clinical trials.
How effective were the antibiotics? Researchers
compared the short term (6 months) positive antibiotics' effects as similar
to the two medicines currently FDA-approved available to treat Alzheimer's:
Aricept and Exelon. Because only about half of Alzheimer's sufferers respond
to these medications, new options are needed.
Created: 11/25/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.