A recent study has shown that aspirin when taken along with gentamycin can prevent the latter's side effect- permanent hearing loss.
The results of the study are especially important in the developing countries where the amino glycosides family of antibiotics, which includes gentamycin, is commonly used due to their low cost and ready availability.
The study has been published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine. The University of Michigan and the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi'an, China jointly conducted the research.
According to Jochen Schacht of the University of Michigan, co-author of the study of the millions of people consuming the drug worldwide, hearing loss has been reported in at least 1 in 10 persons.
Gentamycin does not have much popularity in United States because of its widely publicized risks.
Schacht and his colleague Su-Hua Sha conducted their aspirin tests in China because the problem was seen there especially among children.
The tests revealed that only 3 percent of the 89 patients treated with gentamycin along with 3 grams of aspirin a day developed hearing problems five weeks after treatment in contrast to the 13 percent of the 106 who got a placebo in addition to the antibiotic.
According to researchers the ability of Aspirin to absorb oxidants may be the reason why it works and probably other antioxidant drugs could work as well. However aspirin was simpler in use and quite inexpensive.
The World Health Organization recommends amino glycosides especially for cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis. An inhaled form of gentamycin is also often recommended to patients with cystic fibrosis. Its effect on hearing comes from the destruction of the tiny hairs in the inner ear whose job is to detect sounds at different frequencies.
Researchers found that aspirin did not decrease the action of the antibiotic although some stomach problems were reported in a few patients.
The Sha team still considers the benefits to outweigh the risks.