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Are antibiotics useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease?

Dr. Mark Loeb, associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, presented a study in San Diego at the meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that shows how antibiotics may slow brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease (October 9, 2003). Patients on two antibiotics, doxycycline and rifampin, for three months had significantly less loss of mental function than those given placebos.

Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive loss of mental function and affects more than 4.5 million North Americans. So far, the drugs approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimer’s disease are barely more effective than placebos. Several studies associate Alzheimer’s disease with infections caused by the bacteria chlamydia and mycoplasma, but the vast majority of neurologists do not feel that infection causes Alzheimer’s disease. The author of this study believes that antibiotics may prevent plaques from forming in nerves. The trial found that those in the placebo group lost significantly more intellect than those on antibiotics.

There is no specific test for Alzheimer’s disease, so doctors make the diagnosis by eliminating other causes of brain damage. It is reasonable to prescribe antibiotics to Alzheimer’s disease patients because today no effective medical treatment exists. The four FDA-approved Alzheimer's drugs, Cognex, Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl, slow the rate of brain damage only a little bit and do not stop progression of brain damage.

March 1, 2006

May 30th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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