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Medical News

Antibiotic Pill for Syphilis Holds Promise

September 23, 2005

A single oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin is just as effective as penicillin injections in treating syphilis, according to a Tanzania-based study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

An injection of penicillin has long been the recommended treatment for syphilis. But in poor countries where there is often a shortage of sterile needles and trained physicians to administer the injections, azithromycin might be a viable alternative, Dr. Gabriele Riedner of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and colleagues reported.

In Mbeya, Tanzania, 328 syphilis patients received either an azithromycin pill or a shot of penicillin and were followed up every three months for up to nine months. In both groups, the cure rate was similar: 98 percent in the azithromycin group compared to 95 percent in the penicillin group.

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Penicillin is likely to remain the treatment standard in the United States because of its effectiveness. Last year, researchers detected a syphilis strain resistant to azithromycin. Riedner noted that there is no evidence that an antibiotic-resistant strain is widespread in Tanzania.

Azithromycin treatment is also being studied in four US cities and in Madagascar.

The full study, "Single-Dose Azithromycin Versus Penicillin G Benzathine for the Treatment of Early Syphilis," and an accompanying editorial, "Azithromycin Versus Penicillin G Benzathine for Early Syphilis," were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2005;353(12):1236-1244 and 1291-1293, respectively).

Back to other news for September 23, 2005

Adapted from:
Associated Press
09.21.2005


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
See Also
Syphilis -- a Dreadful Disease on the Move
Syphilis Fact Sheet
More News and Research on Syphilis in the U.S. and Canada

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