The use of anti-fever drugs such as aspirinand acetaminophen may prolong influenza A and possibly other viralinfections, according to researchers at the University of Marylandschools of medicine and pharmacy.
In a series of vaccine studies conducted between1978 and 1987 at the University's Center for Vaccine Development:
- 54 volunteers were injected with Influenza A
- 45 with S. sonnei
- 21 with R. rickettsii
During these studies, some of the subjects weregiven aspirin or acetaminophen(paracetamol) for relief of symptoms such as fever.
The current study compared the duration of illnessin those who received the medication with those who did not andfound that flu sufferers who took one of the anti-fever medicationswere sick an average of 3.5 days longerthan people who did not take either of the drugs.
On average, flu symptoms lasted 5.3 days inparticipants who did not take aspirin or acetaminophen, comparedwith 8.8 days in people who took the anti-fever drugs.
"The analysis suggests that anti-fevertherapy prolonged illness in subjects infected with Influenza A,but not shigellosis or Rocky Mountain spotted fever," saysPhilip A. Mackowiak, MD, one of the study's principal investigatorsand chief of the Medical Care Clinical Center, V.A. Maryland HealthCare System and professor at the School of Medicine.
"Our research suggests that fever may havedifferent roles in the resolution of bacterial and viral infections,"says Karen I. Plaisance, PharmD, associate professor at the Schoolof Pharmacy, the study's other lead investigator.
In comments to Reuters Health, Dr. Plaisancenoted that similar findings have been reported in studies of chickenpox.
She also noted that the findings are based onstudies conducted in the past, but that they hope to conduct studiesin the future in which people with flu symptoms are randomly assignedto receive anti-fever medication or an inactive placebo.
"The good news is thatanti-fever drugs make people feel better when they have infections.The bad news is that they may cause the illness to linger longer,"says Dr. Mackowiak, adding that people "should be aware thatanti-fever drugs have a modestcost associated with relief and that cost is that theymay be sick longer."
Pharmacotherapy,December 2000; 20: 1417-1422
It is amazing tome that so little research has been done into the most basic ofall physiological responses to infect - the fever.
It is so obvious to anyone not enamored ofthe pharmaceutical paradigm that this is one of the body's basicdefense mechanisms and should not usually be suppressed. Fever isnot an illness to be gotten ridden of by popping a pill. It is asymptom of infection, but not a useless one.
This is a very important topic and I hopeto have more articles on this topic next week. Also, be sure toread "Fever in Children -A Blessing in Disguise" in this week's newsletter.