04 Sep 2019

US Navy researchers say antibiotic could help those with decompression sickness

Scientists from the Naval Medical Research Center believe a common antibiotic could relieve the symptoms of decompression sickness.

Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) scientists believe common antibiotic doxycycline could be used to treat decompression sickness in divers. During a presentation at the Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS) in Florida, scientists explained how doxycycline supplement therapy, along with recompression therapy, could reduce disease associated with decompression sickness among Navy personnel.

Decompression sickness (DCS) is a major risk for Navy divers and operators of Diving and Disabled Submarine Rescue (DISSUB) vessels. The presentation looked at how doxycycline affects three factors – mortality, the occurrence of cardiovascular and neurologic DCS, and the time to death based on cardiovascular and neurological DCS.

Undersea Medical Officer Lieutenant Rainey Johnson said: “DCS is an ever-present risk in operational diving and DISSUB scenarios. While recompression therapy is the gold standard for treating DCS, adequate chamber capacity might not be available during operations with a large number of casualties, or in remote locations, and DISSUB rescuees might need to transfer to recompression chambers at surface pressures. Considering these factors we chose to try a common and inexpensive FDA approved antibiotic. In this case Doxycycline, to give divers better treatment and time. The drug prevents DCS severity by inhibiting matrix metalloproteinases and modifying leukocyte responses.”

“Time to these events are important as increased inactivity allow for additional life saving measures to occur. Adjusting study effect is essential for multiple studies analysis. Future studies are underway incorporating doxycycline prophylaxis in a simulated DISSUB scenario decompressed from saturation. If worthwhile, the results from this and the follow on studies will be communicated to NAVSEA to support submarine rescue in the event of a DISSUB scenario.”

Scientists concluded that doxycycline reduced mortality rates but not by a significant amount. DCS is most effectively treated if the sufferer receives treatment early on, especially in more serious cases of injury.

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