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Can You Cure Hard-To-Treat Asthma with Antibiotics?

Q. I learned about the extended use of antibiotics for hard-to-treat asthma and convinced my GP to try three weeks of the antibiotic. I went from a high of 380 on my peak flow meter to 480, a 100 point difference! Now, 18 months later, I maintain around 420.

I use a corticosteroid only if I’m out among a lot of smokers or people using perfumes, and seldom use my rescue inhaler. My GP was amazed at the results I achieved from the antibiotic. It may not help everyone but it certainly helped me.

A. A middle-aged woman with a peak flow (a measure of lung function) of 420 or higher is doing well. Below 400 can be worrisome. We are delighted to learn that antibiotic treatment made such an improvement in your asthma.

Many physicians are unaware of the connection between hard-to-treat asthma and a long-standing lung infection. There is growing research to support this viewpoint, however. An article titled “Is Asthma an Infectious Disease? New Evidence” in the journal Current Allergy and Asthma Reports (Dec., 2013)  notes that:

“Increasing evidence suggests that persistent infections with Mpn (Mycoplasma pneumonia) and Cpn (Chlamydia pneumonia) may play a fundamental role in the persistence and possibly the pathogenesis of asthma in a subset of patients…

“At least 12 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have been conducted to assess the effect of macrolide [antibiotic] therapy in asthma. The most recent meta-analysis of such studies concluded that macrolide therapy for 3 or more weeks produces no improvement in FEV1, but was associated with significant improvements in peak expiratory flow, symptoms, quality of life and airway hyper-reactivity…

“In the not-too-distant future, vaccines and antibiotics may become an important part of the treatment of asthma.”

David Hahn, MD, MS, has just written a book about using the macrolide antibiotic azithromycin for hard-to-treat asthma. The book, A Cure for Asthma? What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You–and Why, is available at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Other visitors have shared similar stories:

“Our son, who is now 42, suffered from chronic asthma as a child. He was always treated with prednisone and bronchodilators for his breathing problems.

“He was hospitalized on several occasions. I would ask the doctor to put him on antibiotics, as they always relieved his symptoms. The doctor would scoff at me and made me feel unqualified to make a suggestion. I am so glad to read about the use of antibiotics for hard-to-treat asthma.” M.S.R.

“I was referred to an allergist at Kaiser Permanent who treated my asthma with azithromycin. After the first regimen he recommended another course of zithro, warning me that I could experience digestive problems. So I took the second batch of antibiotic and ate one or two yogurts per day.

“My asthma disappeared as suddenly as it came on, years before. I keep some Dulera on hand but only need to use it on rare occasions, such as when the weather changes, and then not very much.

“I did experience some stomach cramping as a very short-term reaction to the zithro. Sadly, not every case of asthma is based upon a deep lung infection, but it is worth trying the cure. My asthma was so bad that my ex-wife was calling it COPD.” Sid

“Does Dr. Hahn’s treatment provide any benefit to those with COPD?” Greg

COPD is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Dr. Hahn’s book is specifically designed to help people with asthma, but he does discuss how COPD and asthma are similar and how they are different. A similar treatment regimen for COPD was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Aug. 25, 2011). It revealed that long-term treatment with azithromycin improved quality of life and helped control lung exacerbations.

One reader shared this:

 “I have had COPD for decades. After taking azithromycin for about 15 weeks, I am  feeling well for the first time in over 20 years. Thank you.” K

Other scientific reviews have also found that COPD patients benefit from antibiotic treatment.

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine (online, Dec. 28, 2013)

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Nov. 28, 2013)

Anyone who would like to learn more about Dr. Hahn’s approach to hard-to-treat asthma may find his book of interest. Here is a link to “A Cure for Asthma? What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You–and Why.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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