Research reviews care of rare skin disease

01 September 2012

Researchers are trialling a new approach to a rare skin disease at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Bullous pemphigoid causes large, painful blisters and normally affects older patients.

It is a relatively rare condition, affecting around 33 people in every million, but the risk of death is double that of the normal population.

The cause of the disease is not known, although a genetic disorder is suspected, and treatments have traditionally been corticosteroids or antibiotics.

The new trial compares the use of corticosteroids with doxycycline, which is part of a family of antibiotics called tetracyclines and has been used extensively as a preventive treatment for malaria.

However, the key to the new trial is not doxycycline’s antibiotic properties but its antiinflammatory effects, said Dr Agustin Martin- Clavijo, the study’s principal investigator.

“Tetracyclines have been used on occasion, especially with more frail patients.

They’re much safer, but they’re not something we have used much.

The newer tetracyclines are also absorbed better than the old versions.

“We know this drug acts as an antiinflammatory at the base of the blisters, and we hope it will be an effective treatment across a large group of patients.”

The trial is being led by the University of Nottingham and carried out at several sites across the world.