Science Questions

Could laudanum treat superbugs?

Sun, 21st Sep 2008

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Question

Mark, Dunstable asked:

In the old days diarrhoea used to be treated with laudanum. Can we use that now for superbugs?

Answer

Chris - That’s a morphine-based drug.  The basis of that I presume is it treated the symptoms rather than the cause so it probably would make C. diff worse, wouldn’t it?

Sani - Absolutely.  With C. difficile you really want the toxin and the bacteria out of your system.  You don’t really want to give a drug to help the toxin stay in and cause more damage.

Chris - That toxin, how does it work?  Why is it bad for your guts?

Sani - The toxin works by inducing quite an intense inflammation.  Clostridium difficile produces two types of toxins: toxin A and toxin B.  These latch on to receptors and simulate production of inflammatory mediators called cytokines and this causes quite an intense inflammation with cell death and subsequent necrosis and breakdown of the normal barrier that you find in the large bowel.

Chris - That presumably means you’ll not only lose fluid from the body but you may also an access point for other nasty bacteria to get in as well.

Sani - Yes, and you might actually perforate your bowel.

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