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Drug To Fight Both Indigestion And Pain

Bismuth acetylsalicylate effectively kills ulcer-causing bacteria and might also work as a pain reliever

by Stephen K. Ritter
March 25, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 12

Drugs to treat gastrointestinal infections and acute inflammation can interfere with each other. Chemists in Australia have a potential solution in a new drug designed to treat both conditions simultaneously. The compound, a bismuth acetylsalicylate complex dubbed bispirin, is the brainchild of a team led by Philip C. Andrews of Monash University (Chem. Commun., DOI: 10.1039/c3cc40645h). In the fight against Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes gastrointestinal troubles that can lead to ulcers and cancer, chemists have discovered bismuth carboxylate compounds to eradicate infections. For example, bismuth subsalicylate made from salicylic acid is a prescription drug that also is the active ingredient in over-the-counter products such as Pepto-Bismol. Acetyl­salicylic acid, or aspirin, is one of the world’s most useful pain relievers. One drawback of aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs is a risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, especially in people with H. pylori infection. Andrews and his colleagues wondered whether a single compound could simultaneously provide the therapeutic effects of both bismuth carboxylates and aspirin. They successfully synthesized bispirin for the first time and, in initial tests, found that it has bactericidal activity as good as or better than current bismuth drugs. Studies of the anti-inflammatory activity of bispirin are under way.


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