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Anti-Stroke Drug Effective Treatment for Middle-Ear Infections, Authors Say

Vinpocetine first marketed in 1978

An existing anti-stroke drug is an effective treatment for middle-ear infections, showing the ability to suppress mucus overproduction, to improve bacterial clearance, and to reduce hearing loss, according to researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Rochester.

The findings, published in the Journal of Immunology, could result in a novel, nonantibiotic treatment for otitis media, possibly through topical drug delivery, the authors say. Vinpocetine, the drug involved in the study, has long been used to treat neurological disorders, such as stroke.

The study found that topical administration of vinpocetine suppressed inflammation and the overproduction of mucus induced by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, improved hearing loss in the middle ear, and significantly improved bacterial clearance in animal studies.

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

Otitis media is the most common childhood bacterial infection and the leading cause of conductive hearing loss. S. pneumoniae is one of the most common bacterial pathogens causing middle-ear infection.

In the U.S., otitis media is responsible for 24.5 million visits to physicians’ offices each year, and more than $5 billion is spent annually for care of the disease, according to studies in Pediatric Annals and Otolaryngology –– Head and Neck Surgery.

Children with frequent middle-ear infections may experience speech and language disabilities because otitis media causes hearing loss during a crucial period of speech and language development.

No effective nonantibiotic agents are currently available for the treatment of otitis media because of poor understanding of the pathogenesis of S. pneumoniae infection, Li said. Moreover, inappropriate antibiotic use has led to increased antibiotic resistance. Vaccines against S. pneumoniae have little effect on otitis media.

Mucin, the major component of mucus, plays an important role in the clearance of bacterial pathogens, but uncontrolled, excessive mucus production can lead to conductive hearing loss and decreased bacterial clearance. There is also a lack of effective therapeutic agents for controlling mucus overproduction in otitis media, Li said.

Vinpocetine, an alkaloid extracted from the periwinkle plant, was originally marketed in 1978 under the trade name Cavinton. It is used as an anti-stroke drug in many countries and as a dietary supplement worldwide.

Source: Georgia State University; May 21, 2015.

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