Study: Azithromycin Equal to Penicillin

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., June 1 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve discovered the oral antibiotic azithromycin is as effective as penicillin injections in curing early-stage syphilis.

In a National Institutes of Health-supported clinical trial, HIV-negative volunteers with early-stage syphilis aged 18 to 55 were enrolled at eight sites in the United States and Madagascar. The volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either two injections of benzathine penicillin G or four tablets of the broad-spectrum antimicrobial macrolide drug azithromycin.

Of the 517 total enrollees, 77.6 percent of azithromycin recipients were cured of syphilis while the cure rate among penicillin recipients was 78.5 percent.

Although long-acting penicillin injections are the preferred treatment for early syphilis, the researchers said penicillin injections can cause allergic reactions, the drug must be refrigerated and must be administrated by trained personnel. In view of those shortcomings, they said the orally administered azithromycin may provide a good alternative for treating HIV-negative people with early-stage syphilis.

The study — funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — was led by Dr. Edward Hook III of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and appears in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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