Doctors at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children are testing a novel medication developed by a Baltimore pediatrician that might one day be a significant advance for millions of children each year who suffer from diarrhea. Current over-the-counter medications that adults take for diarrhea are not recommended for young children.
"Unlike current treatments, this is an all natural medication made of fruits, vegetables and grains, and it seems to stop acute diarrhea in 24 to 48 hours," says Dr. Medhat Abu-Shaaban, M.D, who developed the new treatment. "Some patients begin showing improvement within a few hours of taking the first dose."
"If we can find a way to significantly reduce the duration of diarrhea, we can reduce the suffering it causes," says Otto Louis-Jacques, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the principal investigator of the double blind, placebo-controlled study. "In the United States, more than 200,000 children are hospitalized every year due to diarrhea," says Dr. Louis-Jacques, who is also a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children.
The compound is a carefully calibrated compound of fruits, vegetables and grains concentrated into a powder. The powder is mixed with formula, yogurt, cereal or applesauce, and is taken three times a day.
Dr. Shaaban says his compound appears to stop acute diarrhea in its tracks, but he stresses that it is not a replacement for oral rehydration solutions, a life saving combination of water, salt and sugar that replaces lost fluids. In his private practice, Dr. Shaaban has been successfully treating adults and children with acute diarrhea by using his medication in conjunction with oral rehydration solutions. Because the medication is made from all-natural ingredients, it does not require FDA approval. However, in light of the medication's potential, the University of Maryland School of Medicine has decided to test the compound's effectiveness in a clinical trial.
"If the study results reflect the success I have achieved with this medication, the next step will be to find out why and how it works," says Dr. Shaaban. He thinks it absorbs toxins and protects the mucus lining of the intestines while providing additional fiber and nutrition. As part of the continuing study of this natural compound, tests will also be conducted in Asia and Africa.
Diarrhea is the single biggest killer of children in developing countries, where medical care is limited. This year alone, more than four million children will die from severe dehydration or malnutrition caused by diarrhea. Diarrhea leads to a rapid depletion of water, salts and electrolytes in the body. The resulting dehydration, if not treated quickly and effectively, can be life threatening. Acute diarrhea starts suddenly and lasts up to 14 days.
Diarrhea can be caused by a virus or a bacterial infection, and is often spread through contact with fecal matter or contaminated water. Anyone can get diarrhea, but it is most common in areas where sanitation is poor or there is a lack of clean drinking water. In addition, AIDS patients and cancer patients frequently suffer from diarrhea because of the effects of chemotherapy or the disease itself.
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