More MS news articles for Dec 2001

Scientists Report Successfully Treating MS-Like Disease In Rats With Antibiotic

http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Research-2001Dec28-2.asp

December 28, 2001

Summary:

Researchers report having successfully treated rats with the MS-like disease EAE with the antibiotic drug minocycline:

  • When treated before the disease began, the treatment significantly reduced disease activity; when treated after symptoms had already begun, the disease severity was reduced and progression was stopped.
  • The authors conclude that the positive benefits are based on the drug’s ability to regulate immune responses and inflammation, rather on its ability to fight bacteria.
  • This study was done in a rodent model that is similar to, but not identical to, human MS. The only way to know whether this antibiotic would have an impact against human MS is by conducting well-designed and controlled clinical trials. The investigators indicate that an initial-phase human trial is already in planning stages.
 
Details:

Ian D. Duncan, BVMS, PhD, Natalija Popovic, PhD, and colleagues from University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany report on a study in which they used a common antibiotic, minocycline, to successfully treat rats with the MS-like disease, EAE. Their findings will appear early in 2002 in the Annals of Neurology but were published online on December 21, 2001.

In this study, the investigators induced EAE in laboratory rats and then treated them with minocycline, an antibiotic used to treat acne and other infections. The investigators found that when the rats were treated before the disease began, the treatment significantly reduced disease activity. When the rats were treated after symptoms had already begun, the disease severity was reduced and progression was stopped.

While minocycline is most commonly used because of its ability to fight off bacterial infection, the drug also has wide-ranging immune system-suppressing and immune system-regulating functions. In a careful analysis of the animals in this study, the investigators conclude that the drug’s beneficial effects on EAE relate to its ability to regulate immune responses and inflammation, rather than its ability to fight bacteria. MS is already known to be treatable by an array of medications that help regulate immune function, although current treatments are only modestly effective, and better treatments are needed.

Conclusions:

This is a very interesting study, indicative of the wide range of substances that are currently being studied in both animals and humans as potential treatments for MS. While these results are encouraging, it is important to keep in mind that this study was done in a rodent model that is similar to, but not identical to, human multiple sclerosis. 

The only way to know whether this antibiotic would have an impact against human multiple sclerosis is by conducting well-designed and controlled clinical trials in persons who have MS. The investigators indicate that an initial-phase human trial is already in planning stages.