Flu drug heals brain injuries

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According to a study, flu medication helps with traumatic brain injury

Healing brain injuries can be positively influenced by the flu drug amantadine. An international team of researchers from Germany, Denmark and the United States found that injuries in traumatic brain injury patients heal faster when they take amantadine.

In the past, amantadine has often been prescribed to accompany severe traumatic brain injuries, but there are no scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of the drug in traumatic brain injury patients, scientists write in the specialist journal "The New England Journal of Medicine". For the first time, the researchers led by Joseph T. Giacino from the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute at Seton Hall University in New Jersey (USA) and John Whyte, professor of rehabilitation medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia (USA), had a clear effect in their study Flu drug scientifically proven for serious brain injuries.

Functional brain recovery examined The international team of scientists examined the effect of the flu drug on 184 patients who were “in a vegetative state of minimal consciousness” or who had suffered traumatic brain injury with subsequent coma four to 16 weeks earlier. For this purpose, the subjects, who were 36 years old on average, were divided into two groups: a control group in which placebo preparations were distributed and a group which received amantadine. Giacino and Whyte report that the study participants took their medication or their placebo over a period of four weeks, and two more weeks were taken into account as a “washout phase”. Both after four weeks and after the washout phase, the researchers determined the functional recovery of the brain using the so-called “Disability Rating Scale”. The result: The subjects in the amantadine group recovered significantly better than in the control group.

Flu drug accelerates brain healing At the first examination after four weeks, it became apparent that the condition of the traumatic brain injury patients in the amantadine group developed much better than in the placebo group, the neurologists write in their current article. The subjects taking the flu medication were able to answer simple yes-no questions or carry out simple instructions far more frequently than the patients in the control group. The participants in the Amantadine group were also better off in terms of motor skills, according to the researchers. Some have already been able to perform coordinated actions, such as gripping a spoon or even brushing hair. However, the positive effects in the course of the washout phase and the functional recovery of the brain after six weeks gradually became comparable between the control group and the amantadine group, the US researchers Whyte and Giacino explained.

Effect of amantadine in traumatic brain injury discovered by chance. Accordingly, amantadine accelerates the pace of functional recovery in traumatic brain injury patients only during active treatment. However, this "result offers hope to those whose situation is described as hopeless in many places," emphasized Joseph Giacino. For those affected and especially their families, the flu drug could be the straw that they cling to with their expectations. Because there is a lack of effective drugs a successful method of treatment for severe brain injuries has not been possible so far. For example, doctors came across the effects of the flu drug more or less accidentally years ago. Because of the lack of available drugs for the treatment of traumatic brain injury patients, doctors resorted to " Intuition and logic "back to amantadine, without corresponding studies on the effect of the flu drug, reports John Whyte. The effect was convincing and that is why doctors have been using amantadine for years to treat serious brain injuries," explained the neurologist.

Flu drug versatile use In the mid 1960s, amantadine was approved as a flu drug, but it quickly became effective in other diseases. Various studies have indicated that the flu drug can also relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's, whereupon amantadine has also been approved for the treatment of Parkinson's. From a neurological point of view, the effect of amantadine on the dopamine system is particularly interesting. The messenger substance dopamine, colloquially known as the happiness hormone, also plays an important role in motor coordination and mental alertness. However, the researchers have not yet been able to clarify how the flu drug accelerates the functional recovery of the brain after a traumatic brain injury. For the time being, it was important to them to discuss "whether we treat patients with a useful, a useless or even harmful medication," said Whyte.

Long-term effects of the flu drug have not yet been investigated The study by the international team of researchers left many questions unanswered, particularly with regard to the long-term effects of the flu drug. It also remains unclear whether all craniocerebral trauma patients can benefit equally from the treatment, or whether the positive effect is only evident in the case of particularly serious brain injuries. In order to get to the bottom of these and other critical points, the researchers are planning additional long-term studies on the use of the flu drug amantadine in the treatment of "post-traumatic disorders of consciousness". Since there have been numerous setbacks in this area, the current results are extremely encouraging. In addition, according to the researchers, they could make a significant contribution to the development of new treatment methods for serious brain injuries. (fp)

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Video: Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries

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