Research Highlight

Acne antibiotic for brain fever

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2008.127 Published online 21 February 2008

The researchers Manoj Kumar Mishra (left) & Anirban Basu


An acne-treating antibiotic holds promise as a drug to prevent child deaths due to Japanese Encephalitis (JE), new research suggests.

Reseachers from the National Brain Research Centre have found that the common antibiotic minocycline may prevent children from death due to Japanese encephalitis (JE), commonly known as brain fever.

The team found that minocycline limits death by reducing the activation of microglia, cells that destroy damaged cells in the Central Nervous System (CNS). Minocycline also reduced neuronal death and viral replication.

Microglial cells release toxins that engulf the damaged cells and thus clean the CNS. But if they are activated in the CNS, the toxins kill healthy neurons too.

"Experiments in mice show that this antibiotic has merit for development into a therapeutic drug for JE patients", says lead researcher Anirban Basu. The team also found that treatment with minocycline improved the behavioral outcome following JE.

The group had earlier shown that JE increased production of cytokines, proteins that cause brain inflammation and neuron death.

In India, JE is prevalent in rural and socially backward settings and has multiple epidemic pockets. Minocycline, an easily available and affordable tetracycline could go a long way as a mass treatment option.


  1. Mishra, M. K. et al. Minocycline neuroprotects, reduces microglial activation, inhibits caspase 3 induction, and viral replication following Japanese encephalitis. J. Neurochem. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05238.x (2008)
  2. Ghoshal, A. et al. Proinflammatory mediators released by activated microglia induces neuronal death in Japanese Encephalitis. Glia 55, 483-496 (2007)