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It has been reported by multiple independent research groups that tetracycline-based antibiotic drugs (such as doxycycline) have exhibited neuroprotective properties in models of Parkinson’s.
Translation of these preclinical findings into the clinic has, however, been difficult. In addition, concerns have been expressed that long-term use of such agents could bring forward the emergence of antibiotic resistance in the bacteria that they are used to control.
Recently, researchers have investigated a different type of tetracycline-based molecule that has reduced antibiotic activity, crosses the blood-brain-barrier, and is pharmacologically safe. It is called chemically modified tetracycline 3 (or CMT-3).
In today’s post, we will look at the research that has been done on tetracycline-based antibiotic drugs, discuss why we should not be testing antibiotics in Parkinson’s, and consider if CMT-3 could be different.
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Sir Alexander Fleming. Source: Biography
Sir Alexander Fleming is credited with discovering the antibiotic properties of penicillin.
But – as he himself notes – the discovery was a purely chance event. An accident, if you like.
After returning from a two week holiday, Sir Fleming noticed that many of his culture dishes were contaminated with fungus, because he had not stored them properly before leaving. One mould in particular caught his attention, however, as it was growing on a culture plate with the bacteria staphylococcus. Upon closer examination, Fleming noticed that the contaminating fungus prevented the growth of staphylococci.
In an article that Fleming subsequently published in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in 1929, he wrote, “The staphylococcus colonies became transparent and were obviously undergoing lysis … the broth in which the mould had been grown at room temperature for one to two weeks had acquired marked inhibitory, bactericidal and bacteriolytic properties to many of the more common pathogenic bacteria.”
Penicillin in a culture dish of staphylococci. Source: NCBI
Fleming isolated the organism responsible for prohibiting the growth of the staphylococcus, and identified it as being from the penicillium genus.
He named it penicillin and the rest is history (Click here to read that history).
Fleming himself appreciated the serendipity of the finding:
“When I woke up just after dawn on Sept. 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer” (Source)
And this gave rise to his famous quote:
“One sometimes finds what one is not looking for” (Source)
While Fleming’s discovery of the antibiotic properties of penicillin was made as he was working on a completely different research problem, the important thing to note is that the discovery was made because the evidence came to a prepared mind.
Pasteur knew the importance of a prepared mind. Source: Thequotes
And this is the purpose of all the training in scientific research – not acquiring the keys to some special knowledge, but preparing the investigator to notice the curious deviation.
That’s really interesting, but what does any of this have to do with Parkinson’s?