A cheap antibiotic is to be trialled in the UK as a treatment for schizophrenia after being successfully tested on patients in Japan, Pakistan, Israel and Brazil.
Antibiotic minocycline has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, and is normally prescribed to teenagers with acne.
A cheap antibiotic could be a successful treatment for schizophrenia
In Japan, minocycline was prescribed to schizophrenic patients to treat unrelated infections. As well as clearing up the infections, the drug also led to dramatic improvements in their psychotic symptoms.
This chance observation prompted researchers around the world to test the drug on patients with schizophrenia. Trials of minocycline in Israel, Pakistan and Brazil have all shown a decrease in psychosis.
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition, described as a psychotic illness, which causes hallucinations, delusions, muddled thoughts and changes in behaviour.
Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions.
The National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity in the UK found that 5 in 1000 people experienced a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.
Scientists believe that schizophrenia and other mental illnesses including depression may result from inflammatory processes in the brain, which are reduced by the anti-inflammatory effects of minocycline.
Now, the National Institute for Health Research is funding a £1.9m trial of minocycline in the UK to begin next month. The Institute looks to recruit 175 patients recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. Half will be given minocycline with their standard anti-psychotic treatment, and the remainder will take a placebo.
Brain scans will then be carried out at the start and the end of the 12 month trial to compare loss of grey matter- an effect of schizophrenia- in the two groups. It will also test for inflammatory markers in the blood.
Professor Sir Robin Murray, chair of the Schizophrenia Commission said: "Infection or inflammation might be involved in a minority of people with acute psychosis and minocycline might counter this. In depression inflammatory markers go up and in Alzheimer's too."
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© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012