Prosultiamine, a vitamin B1 derivative, has long been used for beriberi neuropathy and Wernicke's encephalopathy. Based on the finding that prosultiamine induces apoptosis in human T lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I)-infected T cells, Nakamura et al. conducted a clinical trial of prosultiamine in patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM)/tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP). In this open-label, single arm study enrolling 24 HAM/TSP patients recently published in BMC Medicine, oral prosultiamine (300 mg/day for 12 weeks) was found to be effective by neurological, urological and virological evaluations. Notably, it increased detrusor pressure, bladder capacity and maximum flow rate, and improved detrusor overactivity and detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia. A significant decrease in HTLV-I copy numbers in peripheral blood following the treatment provided a rationale for using the drug. The trial has some limitations, such as the small numbers of participants, the open-label design, the lack of a placebo arm, and the short trial period. Nevertheless, the observation that such a safe, cheap drug may have excellent therapeutic effects on HAM/TSP, a chronic devastating illness occurring mainly in developing countries, provides support for future large-scale randomized controlled trials. Please see related research: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/182.
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