Japanese doctors first stumbled across the connection while administering the drug to a patient as treatment for pneumonia in 2007. The man had previously reported severe psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, insomnia and anxiety, but had no history of psychological disorders. He was given a powerful anti-psychotic drug known as halperidol, but the treatment had no effect.
It was only after the patient was given minocycline to treat a bout of pneumonia that the symptoms began to abate. Within two weeks the psychosis was resolved, but when doctors stopped the prescription of minocycline after the pneumonia had cleared up, the psychosis returned. Doctors decided to resume his prescription and within three days, he was better again.
Further trials conducted in Brazil, Pakistan and Israel revealed the same conclusion: that schizophrenia patients who took minocycline would experience a significant reduction in psychotic symptoms.
Experts believe that the inflammatory and neuroprotective properties of the drug may help treat the inflammation commonly associated with mental conditions such as schizophrenia, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Now the UK’s National Institute for Health Research has announced its plan to invest £1.9 million into medical trials due to begin this month. The trials will involve 175 patients recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. Half of them will be randomly selected and given minocycline along with their standard anti-psychotic drugs, and the other half will take a placebo. Brain scans will be compared at the start and end of the 12 month trial to investigate the effects of minocycline on the visible signs of schizophrenia (loss of grey matter).
If infection does have a part to play in the cause of schizophrenia, then minocycline could help to counter this.
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