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Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, and meptazinol, an opioid antagonist with agonist properties, were tested in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial in 24 Ethiopian patients with louse-borne relapsing fever. The potentially fatal Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction (J-HR), which invariably follows tetracycline treatment of the disease, was unaffected by naloxone, 30-40 mg intravenously, but was diminished by meptazinol, 300-500 mg intravenously. Compared with naloxone and placebo, meptazinol reduced the clinical severity of the reaction, significantly delayed and shortened its chill phase, delayed the rise in temperature, and reduced peak temperature and changes in pulse and respiratory rates and leucocyte count. High-dose corticosteroids given before or at the time of tetracycline treatment failed to alter the reaction, which is thought to result from release of endotoxin-like substances. Meptazinol is the first effective treatment for the J-HR of louse-borne relapsing fever. This finding suggests a role for endogenous opioids in the pathogenesis of the J-HR.


Journal article



Publication Date





835 - 839


Adolescent, Adult, Azepines, Clinical Trials as Topic, Double-Blind Method, Endotoxins, Fever, Humans, Infusions, Parenteral, Meptazinol, Naloxone, Prednisolone, Relapsing Fever, Spirochaeta, Tetracycline