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   May 25

New Clinical Trial to Investigate Whether Chinese Herbal Medicine Could Be Alternative Treatment to Antibiotics

Newswise — Researchers at the University of Southampton are to study the use of Chinese Herbal Medicines in treating recurrent urinary tract infections (RUTIs), in the first clinical trial of its kind in the UK.

The double blind, randomised, placebo controlled feasibility RUTI trial, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), is now underway in the primary care setting, where patients recruited to the trial via their GPs will be offered one of two treatment paths.

A total of 80 women who have had three or more recurrent UTIs in the previous 12 months will receive ‘individualised’ herbs prescribed by a Chinese herbal practitioner, or ‘standardised’ herbs provided by primary care clinicians. Both arms are placebo controlled and will include herbs for the prevention of UTIs and treatment of acute episodes. Treatment duration is for 16 weeks.

The study aims to assess whether herbal medicines could play a valuable role in replacing some antibiotic treatments for appropriate conditions.

Dr Andrew Flower, NIHR Research Fellow in the Complementary and Integrated Medicine Research Unit at the University of Southampton, said: “Chinese herbal medicine has a recorded history of treating symptoms of UTIs for over 2000 years. More recent clinical research in China has provided some preliminary evidence that CHM can alleviate the symptoms of UTIs and reduce the rate of recurrence but more rigorous investigation is required. If successful, the findings of this trial will provide the necessary data to progress to larger more definitive trials.

“The RUTI trial is the first time Chinese medicine has been authorised as a Clinical Trial of an Investigational Medicinal Product (CTIMP) in the UK. This means we have had to pass through the same regulatory pathways as for a conventional drug trial, and it is an important precedent for future research.”

In the UK, urinary tract infections are the most common bacterial infection presented by women within the primary care setting, with approximately 40 to 50 per cent of women experiencing one episode during their lives. Between 20 to 30 per cent of women who have had one episode of UTI will have a recurrent UTI, and around 25 per cent of these will develop subsequent recurrent episodes. RUTIs can have a significant negative effect on quality of life, and have a high impact on health care costs as a result of outpatient visits, diagnostic tests and prescriptions.

Antibiotics are used to treat both acute and recurrent UTIs and while effective in reducing the duration of severe symptoms, antibiotic resistance is currently estimated at 20 per cent for Trimethoprim and Cephalosporins, and in half of cases being treated with Amoxicillin. Antibiotic resistance and previous episodes of cystitis have been positively associated with an increased duration of severe symptoms of UTIs.
President of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, Emma Farrant said: “With antibiotic resistance increasing rapidly, herbal medicine could play a valuable role in replacing some antibiotic treatments in appropriate instances, such as for treatment of UTIs, acute coughs and sore throats.

“Recent clinical research in China has provided some supportive evidence that CHM can alleviate the symptoms of UTIs and reduce the rate of recurrence one year post treatment from 30 per cent when antibiotics were used alone, to 4.4 per cent when antibiotics and CHM were combined. A recent Cochrane review of CHM for RUTIs also found some supportive data for herbal interventions but more rigorous trials, such as the RUTI trial, are vital to help confirm historical treatment success, and bring such treatment to the forefront of primary care to help reduce the UKs reliance on antibiotics and help prevent the truly frightening prospect of widespread antimicrobial resistance.”

1. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its worldclass infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).

2. The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM) was set up in 1987 to regulate the practice of Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) in the UK and has over 450 members. The RCHM aims to set and maintain high standards in Chinese herbal medicine. Members must have a degree in Chinese herbal medicine, or a qualification that is equivalent to a degree. In addition, members adhere to a Code of Ethics and have full professional insurance. The Register is a member of the European Herbal & Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA), an umbrella organisation that for over a decade has called for statutory regulation (SR) for herbal medicine in the UK. (www.rchm.co.uk)

3. Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world. http://www.southampton.ac.uk/ http://www.southampton.ac.uk/weareconnected

Source: University of Southampton

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