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Is Azithromycin a Miracle Cure for Asthma?

Could intensive treatment with an antibiotic get rid of symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath? Might it be a miracle cure for asthma?

Asthma, with its coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, is usually considered an allergic condition. In this way of thinking, exposure to an allergic trigger sets off the symptoms. Doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as inhaled corticosteroids along with medicines that help open the airways, such as albuterol. They will be quick to tell you there is no miracle cure for asthma. If you have asthma, you’ll have it all your life.

Some patients, especially those with hard-to-treat asthma that doesn’t respond well to the typical therapies, have had striking experiences that fly in the face of this dogma. One such patient is Jim Quinlan, whose story is remarkable. This reader shared another story that has a number of similarities.

An Asthma Exacerbation That Led to a “Miracle Cure” for Asthma:

Q. I had asthma for many years and was treated with Advair. During flare-ups I also used an albuterol inhaler.

Last year I came down with a terrible respiratory infection. My doctor prescribed two courses of azithromycin. By the time I finished the second one my breathing was fine.

I now have no asthma symptoms at all. This antibiotic was a miracle cure for my asthma.

Respiratory Infections and Asthma:

A. Respiratory tract infections like the one you suffered are often associated with worsening of asthma (PLOS One, Apr. 22, 2015).  Recent research shows that youngsters who are prone to asthma are more likely to have an attack when they com down with colds (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Feb. 8, 2016).

Unsuspected Bacterial Infections:

There is now increasing evidence that persistent low-grade infections with Mycoplasma pneumoniae or Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria may lead to asthma symptoms in some people (Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, Dec., 2013). Because these bacteria can’t be detected on a simple culture, they can be difficult to diagnose. But the antibiotic azithromycin kills them both.

Research in mice suggests that treatment with azithromycin (Zithromax, Z-Pak) ameliorates inflammation and improves airway remodeling (Pulmonary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, online Jan. 8, 2016).  Young children with repeated episodes of asthma-like symptoms benefited from azithromycin treatment (Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Jan., 2016).

A Cure for Asthma?

Dr. David Hahn, MD, MS, has written about using azithromycin for hard-to-treat asthma in his book, A Cure for Asthma? What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You-and Why. In it he discusses the pros and cons of this approach and lays out the scientific evidence that antibiotic treatment with azithromycin can lead to long-lasting relief from asthma symptoms for certain individuals.  He also describes his protocol in detail. A Cure for Asthma? is published by People’s Pharmacy Press.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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