A new animal study from researchers at Georgia State University indicates that a drug used for treating stroke may work as a non-antibiotic treatment for middle ear infection, or otitis media. Middle ear infections, the most common childhood bacterial infection and the leading cause of conductive hearing loss, can occur during critical stages of children’s speech and language development. The overuse of antibiotics has led to increased resistance of bacteria associated with ear infections, so there is an urgent need for non-antibiotic drugs that can suppress overactive inflammation without significant side effects.

Jian-Dong Li, MD, PhD

Jian-Dong Li, MD, PhD, Georgia State University

In the new study, which is discussed in an article in a May 2015 online edition of The Journal of Immunology, researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Rochester showed that anti-stroke drug vinpocetine could be an effective treatment for middle ear infection. The drug, which does not target bacteria, limits overproduction of mucus and may help address the demand for non-antibiotic treatments that reduce inflammation without causing side effects. Vinpocetine, also known by the brand name Cavington, is used worldwide as an anti-stroke drug and a dietary supplement.

“Our proposed studies may lead to developing novel, non-antibiotic therapeutic strategies to control immunopathology, reduce mucus overproduction, improve hearing loss, and enhance host defense for otitis media,” said senior study author Jian-Dong Li, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University.

Dr Li and his co-authors report that in their mouse study, the drug suppressed mucus overproduction, improved bacterial clearance, and reduced hearing loss caused by Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, the most common cause of middle ear infection. Dr Li added that vaccines against S. pneumonia have limited efficacy in otitis media.

The research team suggests the vinpocetine could be repurposed as a new otitis media treatment that could be delivered topically, rather than as an injection or in tablet form. They explain that repurposing an existing drug has many advantages over a new, experimental drug. It saves time and cost, and can also reduce safety risks, say the authors, who note that there have been no reports of significant adverse effects or toxicity of vinpocetine used in therapeutic doses in adults and children.

Source: Medical News Today, Georgia State University

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