Antioxidant Cuts Lung Inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis

Phase I trial finds antioxidant to be safe, corrects redox imbalance

WEDNESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- The antioxidant, glutathione pro-drug N-acetylcysteine (NAC) can reduce lung neutrophils and inflammation in cystic fibrosis patients, according to the results of a phase I trial published online March 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. However, patients should be warned about uncontrolled use of the drug because of poor manufacturing standards of over-the-counter brands, the authors say.

Rabindra Tirouvanziam, Ph.D., from Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., and colleagues gave 18 cystic fibrosis patients and nine healthy control subjects 0.6 to 1.0 gram of NAC, three times daily for four weeks and assessed pulmonary function and sputum elastase activity.

High-dose NAC was well tolerated with only mild and infrequent side effects. The treatment significantly increased the level of glutathione in circulating neutrophils, decreased neutrophil burden in the lungs, and decreased sputum elastase activity. Pulmonary function measures were not improved but should not be expected in these short-term treatments, the authors write.

"High-dose oral NAC has the potential to counter the intertwined redox and inflammatory imbalances in cystic fibrosis," the authors conclude. A phase II trial is underway to determine NAC's long-term safety, therapeutic effects and mechanism of action.

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