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Treating COPD with antibiotics

By Jim Plouffe

This story first appeared on the South Australian Government’s The Lead news site on 7 October and can be viewed at…

South Australian researchers claim to have found a better way of treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Dr Sandra Hodge from the Lung Research Laboratory at the Hanson Institute in Adelaide, South Australia said that treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with the antibiotic azithromycin may be more effective than the currently prescribed steroid treatment.

Dr Hodge and a team from the Department of Thoracic Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital administered the antibiotic treatment over three months and found it allows for better control of damage, death and repair in the cells that line the airways.

COPD is predicted to become the third most common cause of death in the world by 2020.

Dr Hodge said that COPD patients have an increased risk of bacterial colonization of the airway and infective exacerbations.

“Treatment with glucocorticosteroids is often ineffective,” she said. “Understanding the basis of ongoing inflammation is critical to the development of new treatments.”

According to the study, published in the journal Respirology this month, treatment with a low dose of azithromycin provides an alternative to address the issues of persistent airway epithelial injury and inadequate repair in COPD-patients.  

The study confirmed the desired anti-inflammatory effect of azithromycin on epithelial cells derived from airway lavage and brushing samples of COPD-patient.

Repeated administration of azithromycin to COPD-patients over a three-month period suppressed the production of a specific T-cell toxin, granzyme B, in the airway epithelium.