An existing anti-stroke drug is found to be an effective treatment for middle-ear infections, showing the ability to suppress inflammation and mucus overproduction, easing one of the most common types of bacterial infection found in children, according to researchers at Georgia State University.
The study is published in The Journal of Immunology, could result in a new, non-antibiotic treatment for middle-ear infection, possibly through topical drug supply. Vinpocetine, the drug involved in the study, an alkaloid extracted from the periwinkle plant, has long been used to treat neurological disorders such as stroke.
Researchers found that it clears the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia, which causes the inflammation and overproduction of mucus typical of otitus media, or middle ear infections, as well as reducing the hearing loss that can result from them.
Dr. Jian-Dong Li, director of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Inflammation and Immunity said, “Our encouraging preliminary data suggest that the repurposed drug Vinpocetine may play a critical role in inhibiting inflammation and enhancing antimicrobial defenses in otitis media. 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.”
In the United States, there are 24.5 million cases of otitis which are treated with antibiotics. Inappropriate antibiotic use has led to increased antibiotic resistance. Currently, there are no effective non-antibiotic agents for otitis media because of poor understanding of the Streptococcus pneumonia pathogenesis.
Children with recurrent middle-ear infections may suffer from speech and language disabilities because otitis media causes hearing loss during a crucial period for speech and language development.
This study’s findings could also have a substantial impact as a new treatment option in countries where surgery is not readily available, Li said.