Chili Peppers for AIDS Pain

June 28, 1994
Media Contact:Joann Rodgers
Phone: (410) 955-8659
E-mail: JRodgers@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

Burning, aching feet. It's not life-threatening. It's not a problem people typically associate with AIDS. But for the 10 percent of AIDS patients whose pain nerves in their legs and feet are infected with HIV and who have this problem -- called peripheral neuropathy -- the constant pain brings misery.

Hopkins neurologist Marco Pappagallo, M.D., is preparing FDA-approved trials of something simple and inexpensive to end the pain: an ointment made from chili peppers. A local Baltimore firm produces the salve containing a high concentration of ground peppers -- the same sort that make your eyes water over tamales -- and whose active ingredient is capsaicin.

From animal studies, Pappagallo has good evidence that a single application of the potent cream will stop pain for several weeks and perhaps months. 'The capsaicin knocks out pain receptors in rats and mice; we're assuming it will do the same for humans," says Pappagallo.

Because the single application produces a searing sensation hotter than 10-alarm chi@ the clinicians at Hopkins' Blaustein Pain Treatment Center numb first-time patients with a spinal anesthetic. By the time the anesthetic wears off, the pain receptors should be knocked out.

Pappagallo says that the ointment also has potential use for other local FHV-associated pain. Pappagallo is actively recruiting AIDS patients with the problem for the trials.


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