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Danish scientist claims inexpensive antibiotic therapy could help back pain

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

According to Danish scientist Hanne Albert, almost half of those with chronic lower back pain could benefit from an inexpensive process involving antibiotics. Described as being worthy of a Nobel prize, Albert and other  scientists have shown that many cases of severe, long-term back ache are caused by bacteria. The three month course of antibiotics to patients would be as little as $175.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Grateful patients who were in so much pain that they had to give up work have thanked the researchers for giving them their life back.

"These are mums and dads in the middle of an active working life. These are pillars of society; they care for their parents and for their children. They will be able to play with their children, instead of just sitting and watching them play," Albert declares.

Many hard-to-treat cases involving back pain are caused by slipped discs, where wear and tear, traffic accidents, heavy lifting or other problem causes a piece of the spongy tissue that cushions the bones of the spine to spill out, causing pain in the back and legs.
 
Most people quickly recover, but for some, the pain persists and even major surgery is not completely effective.

Dr. Albert, working with colleagues from Birmingham, believes that often this persistent pain is caused not by damaged disc by rogue bacteria that have infiltrated it.

Albert began by examining tissue taken from discs of people whose back pain was so bad they had had spinal surgery. Around half tested positive for bacteria, with a bug that normally causes acne predominant.

The researchers then allocated 162 men and women who were in "relentless" back pain to a 100-day course of the antibiotic Bioclavid or a placebo.

For one year afterwards, those who had taken the drug said they'd experienced 64 hours of pain in the previous month. Those on placebo had racked up 200 hours of pain.

Patients who had taken drug took just 19 sick days, compared with 45 by those on placebo, the European Spine Journal reports.

Albert, with the University of Southern Denmark, described the improvement as "amazing" and said the patients were effectively cured.

"I can't tell you how many people have given me hugs and told me I have given them their life back."

The Propionibacterium bug normally causes acne. It is also found in the mouth and pushed into the circulation by tooth brushing. In those who have slipped a disc, it worms its way into the damaged disc, where it produces acid which corrodes the spine, causing fresh and often excruciating pain.

"More work needs to be done but make no mistake, this is a turning  point, a point where we will have to re-write the textbooks," Peter Hamlyn, the University College Hospital London surgeon who has successfully given the antibiotic to patients there. He now says that doctors must now rethink their understanding of lower back pain.

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