Asthma, a chronic ailment that afflicts millions around the world, causes inflammation of the airways, or bronchi, and affects the way air enters and leaves the lungs, thereby disrupting breathing.
During an asthmatic attack, the airways of a patient become narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Doctors say steroids can help to treat the underlying lung inflammation associated with the condition, but they say that better drugs are needed to treat asthma attacks.
Sebastian Johnston at Imperial College, London, and colleagues tested telithromycin, an antibiotic by Sanofi-Aventis, on 278 adults with asthma, reported the online edition of New Scientist.
The antibiotic is typically used to treat chronic bronchitis and also appears to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Those who took the antibiotic reported twice as many symptom-free days as their counterparts who received the placebo. During the 10-day treatment period, those on telithromycin had a 40 percent reduction in symptoms as opposed to a 27 percent reduction seen in those on standard treatment alone.
They also showed a speedier recovery - about five days compared with eight days for the control group. Patients were considered to have recovered from their acute attack if they showed a 50 percent reduction in symptoms.
Medical experts however fear that antibiotic resistance would increase if physicians prescribe telithromycin improperly. They say that further trials of the drugs are necessary.
Antibiotics are not formally approved to treat asthma but some physicians prescribe them to asthma sufferers who show respiratory problems that could be due to bacterial infection.