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Antibiotic May Help Treat Stroke

Minocycline May Be a Treatment for Stroke Patients Who Miss Treatment Window for Other Stroke Drugs

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 2, 2007 -- The antibiotic minocycline may reduce stroke damage in some stroke patients.

Researchers report that news in today's edition of the journal Neurology.

The finding comes from a study of 152 men and women in Israel who had a stroke caused by a blood clot. Such strokes, called ischemic strokes, are the most common type of stroke.

All of the patients in the Israeli study got to the hospital six to 24 hours after their stroke symptoms started. That's too late for clot-busting stroke drugs, which must be given within a few hours of the start of a stroke.

In addition to routine stroke care, half of the patients took minocycline pills for five days. The other half of the group took pills containing no medicine (placebo).

The researchers -- who included Yair Lampl, MD, of Tel Aviv University -- followed the patients' progress for three months.

Improvements Seen After 1 Week

The patients who took minocycline fared better than those taking the placebo pills throughout the study.

"The improvement was already apparent within a week of the stroke," Lampl says in an American Academy of Neurology news release.

"This is exciting," Lampl says, "because many people who have had stroke cannot get to the hospital within three hours after symptoms start, which is the timeframe for current available treatments" for ischemic stroke.

Lampl and colleagues speculate that minocycline may help ischemic stroke patients by taming inflammation and by blocking cell death.

But minocycline didn't totally erase stroke damage, and it didn't affect the patients' rate of death, heart attack, recurrent stroke, or bleeding.

The researchers call for larger studies to confirm the findings and to identify the best dose of minocycline for treating ischemic stroke.

Meanwhile, swift stroke treatment is a must. That means getting emergency medical care at the first sign of stroke symptoms.

The American Stroke Association lists these possible signs of stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion and trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Those symptoms may or may not be caused by a stroke, but the stakes are too high to chance it, so seek treatment immediately.

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