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THE VALUE OF PENICILLIN IN THE TREATMENT OF AGRANULOCYTOSIS CAUSED BY THIOURACIL

MARY CATHERINE TYSON, PETER VOGEL and NATHAN ROSENTHAL

Abstract

Thiouracil has been found to be an effective drug in the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Agranulocytosis following its use occurred in nine cases, four of which terminated fatally. In five others a complete and rapid recovery took place following penicillin therapy. The latter drug is believed to be ideal for all cases of agranulocytosis, and especially those in which chemotherapy has been used and may have been responsible for the condition. Thus far we have not seen any report of any untoward effect on the hemopoietic system from the use of penicillin.

The use of antibacterial agents for the treatment of agranulocytosis was suggested by Dameshek and Wolfson21 in 1942. It was believed by these authors that patients with agranulocytosis died not of the leukopenia per se but of the sepsis which developed secondarily to the lack of granulocytes. Two very severe cases of aminopyrine agranulocytosis treated with sulfathiazole made complete recoveries. For the treatment of sulfonamide agranulocytosis, it was suggested that a preparation differing from that which had already been used be given. With the discovery of penicillin, and its complete lack of possible deleterious effect on the bone marrow, its use was suggested by Dameshek17 (1944). A report on the beneficial effects of this medication in a case of sulfonamide agranulocytosis was later reported by Dameshek and Knowlton18 and similar cases by Sprague and Ferguson19 and by Meredith and Fink.20

Since sulfonamides may cause further toxic effect on the bone marrow, we feel that their use should be avoided in the treatment of agranulocytosis, especially where a history of previous use is obtained. We do not agree with others21, 22 who continue the use of sulfonamides in the treatment of leukopenia or agranulocytosis where these very drugs may have been responsible for the condition. It would seem better judgment to use penicillin, which by combating the bacterial invasion of the body and the consequent toxemia enables the patient to survive until the bone marrow cells regenerate.