Sarcoidosis is characterised by the formation of inflammatory cells (called granulomas) in affected organs (usually the lungs and skin). For some patients, they are able to live reasonably normal lives with the condition, whilst others endure chronic pain, organ damage and a very poor quality of life.
Dr Hart said: “Chronic cough can have a distressing impact on quality of life for those suffering with pulmonary sarcoidosis. This trial’s aim was to re-purpose existing drugs as treatment options for sarcoidosis, and we found that azithromycin reduced coughing significantly without any serious side effects.”
The inflammatory cells, or granulomas, that cause sarcoidosis are formed by the activation of a protein called ‘mTOR’. Dr Hart and his team identified the fact that the antibiotic azithromycin is known to reduce mTOR activity within cells and is also safe to use within sarcoidosis patients.
As a result, the 21 participants in the trial suffering from pulmonary sarcoidosis and reporting a chronic cough, took 250mg of azithromycin once daily for 3 months.
More than half of the patients reported clinically meaningful improvements in their cough-related quality of life, while more than three quarters had clinically meaningful improvements in their sarcoidosis-related quality of life.
Dr Hart noted: “We believe that the improvements were sufficiently large to merit further investigation of azithromycin as a treatment for sarcoidosis cough.”
Mr Henry Shelford, SarcoidosisUK Chairperson, said: “This is a really exciting discovery by Dr Hart and his research partners at the University of Hull.