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Medicine: Streptomycin-Plus

1 minute read

Five-year-old streptomycin, like others of the “wonder drugs,” has its drawbacks (TIME, March 1). Among its worst effects (which may pass or may be permanent) are dizziness, deafness, and damage to the kidneys. But streptomycin has been the best drug doctors have found for treating tuberculosis. The problem has been to make it safer.

Three drug-manufacturing firms (Squibb, Merck, Parke-Davis), experimenting with variations on streptomycin, found a complex chemical answer: dihydrostreptomycin (two atoms of hydrogen added to the original antibiotic). Two teams of doctors immediately started testing it. Last week the first public announcement of results was made in St. Paul, Minn. The news was hopeful.

The streptomycin-plus was tried on 50 patients. It fought bacteria just as well as the original, but streptomycin-resistant bacteria resisted it too. But doctors could give two to three times as much for a longer time without causing deafness, dizziness or kidney damage. It can also be given to patients who are very sensitive to streptomycin.

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