Stanford University researchers have been awarded £210,000 (about $265,000) to study the prevention of hearing loss caused by a class of antibiotics, called aminoglycosides, which are commonly used to treat lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF).
The three-year research project will be jointly funded by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
“We are delighted to co-fund this important research with RNID to reduce the hearing loss side effects of taking aminoglycoside antibiotics,” said Lucy Allen, PhD, director of research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, in a press release.
“These drugs are a critical part of treating the serious lung infections that people with CF develop, but any improvements we can find will also benefit many other people with hard-to-treat infections,” Allen said.
Mucus buildup in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis can promote the growth of bacteria, leading to serious lung infections.
Aminoglycoside antibiotics are very effective in fighting these infections and are associated with low rates of antibiotic resistance, which occurs when microbes develop an ability to overcome the effects of an antibiotic, making treatment less effective.
Although often used when other antibiotics have proven ineffective, aminoglycosides can cause toxicity leading to several side effects, including kidney problems and hearing loss.
“Aminoglycosides penetrate and kill sensory hair cells in the inner ear that are vital for hearing,” said Alan Cheng, MD, the project’s principal investigator.
Although the exact rates of hearing loss caused by aminoglycosides are unknown, researchers have estimated that up to 50% of CF patients may be affected.
Mark Aisthorpe, a UK chef and cystic fibrosis patient, said treatment with the aminoglycoside tobramycin for an infection at the age of 16 led to hearing loss which dramatically affected his life for decades. many years.
“Until I started to lose my hearing, I was always good enough to take my CF medication, but developing hearing loss put me off taking it for almost 10 years,” said said Aisthorpe. “It also affected my social life – I liked going out at night and meeting new people, but I completely lost interest in it because I couldn’t hear what people were saying.”
The research team will work to develop less toxic aminoglycosides to help prevent the kinds of problems that Aisthorpe has.
“Our approach is to design and test versions of these drugs that cannot enter hair cells but retain the ability to kill bacteria,” Cheng said.
The researchers hope that with three years of funding, at least three new antibiotics will have been developed and show promise for clinical trials. And since aminoglycosides are used to treat many conditions, the research could extend beyond cystic fibrosis.
“In addition to treating cystic fibrosis lung infections, this class of antibiotics is also commonly used to prevent infections in newborns,” said Ralph Holme, PhD, director of research and insight at RNID. .
“We are excited about the potential impact this research could have on hundreds of people to prevent them from losing their hearing to aminoglycoside antibiotics,” Holme said.