Magazine article Science News

Troubled Hearts: Antibiotic Might Fend off Second Attack. (This Week)

Magazine article Science News

Troubled Hearts: Antibiotic Might Fend off Second Attack. (This Week)

Article excerpt

An antibiotic might protect people with heart disease from future coronary events, according to the results of a small-scale trial. The study's limited scope, however, makes its conclusion tentative, some researchers say. They look forward to results of several larger trials now under way.

The new finding fits with a hypothesis that certain infectious organisms are at the root of some heart conditions. Clarithromycin, the antibiotic used in the study, works against Chlamydia pneumoniae. That bacterium is usually associated with respiratory symptoms but may also attack a person's heart. The drug's anti-inflammatory effect may also reduce the risk of further heart problems. Previous studies have suggested that a related antibiotic, roxithromycin, reduces patients' risk of heart problems during treatment, but the effect doesn't persist.

"The action of clarithromycin seems to be long-lasting," says Juha Sinisalo of Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland.

Sinisalo and his colleagues studied 148 adults, average age 63. Half received clarithromycin tablets daily and half got placebo pills. All subjects had been admitted to hospitals for either unstable angina, a painful condition resulting from inadequate blood supply to heart muscle, or a particular form of heart attack. The researchers treated participants for 3 months and then followed their progress for an average of 18 additional months.

During the treatment period, no clear difference in heart-disease symptoms showed up between the two groups. Over the follow-up period, however, a significant difference appeared in total number of heart-disease episodes, which ranged from unstable angina to death. …

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