antibiotic therapy, for, rheumatic diseases
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Education / Brochure Sheets / Lupus


Lupus is a chronic disease, affecting women eight to ten times more often than men and can be mild or severe, localized or systemic (affecting the entire body). It is believed that genetics, environment and hormones all play a part, but there are some who think that a microorganism may trigger the genetic tendency and bring on the disease.


There are three of the most exhibited categories of lupus.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE ) and Subacute Cutaneous Lupus (SCLE) are often limited to the skin and usually are identifiable by a scaly, sometimes itchy rash on the face, scalp and neck and sensitivity to the sun. Organ involvement does not generally occur, and DLE and SCLE are not life-threatening. These forms are frequently diagnosed by a skin biopsy of the rash.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a more severe, chronic form, often involving organ or body systems. It can affect skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, blood and the central nervous system (CNS lupus). It can flare and be more aggressively active or quite down in an apparent remission. It can be life-threatening. Some people who begin with discoid will progress to systemic lupus. Inflammation is a common manifestation.

Drug Induced Lupus (DIL) is similar to the systemic in symptoms, however it disappears when the offending drug is discontinued: (hydralazine, procainamide, and in some literature, minocycline). There are questions that arise regarding the reports of minocycline contributing to DIL, but some lupus patients have responded well to minocycline and concerned physicians/patients have effectively used other antibiotics for treating lupus.


Symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient, as can the course of the disease. Symptoms at onset for one person may be different from another, making diagnosis more difficult. Some symptoms are:

  • Anemia, blood disorders
  • Antibodies ANA
  • Arthritis: swollen, achy joints, inflammation
  • Chest pain while breathing
  • Fatigue, weakness, pain
  • Fevers over 100 degrees
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Heart - pericarditis
  • Immunological disorders
  • Kidney involvement, high blood pressure
  • Lungs - pleuritis
  • Nerves - seizure
  • Raynaud's phenomenon ? sensitivity to cold, fingers, toes change colors
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Skin rashes, butterfly rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Ulcers on skin or in mouth
  • Vasculitis
  • Weight changes

It is rare that any patient will experience all of these symptoms. At least four of the primary list of 11 parameters (indicated in bold type) are necessary for diagnosis of lupus, however, during the course of the disease, various symptoms may come and go.


Antibiotic therapy is treatment aimed at the possible source of lupus, not just the symptoms. It is based on the theory that SLE is an acquired or triggered disease due to an elusive organism called a mycoplasma, similar in some ways to both a virus and bacterium, but much smaller. Some mycoplasmas are more virulent than others, and that influences how they affect different tissues of the body. This may be why the same family of infectious agent causes different forms of the same disease.

Treatment with very common antibiotics has proven to be generally safe over many years of use. Tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline and clindamycin are among those used.

As the antibiotics begin to suppress and destroy the mycoplasma, the patient?s own defense system, strengthened by the antibiotics, "kicks in" and disease activity decreases. On antibiotic therapy, a gradual improvement is often noticed as symptoms lessen. The effectiveness of antibiotics can often (but not necessarily) be seen by improved laboratory numbers as the antibiotics take effect. In a great many cases, patients are able to return to normal activity with little or no permanent damage. Many lupus patients are highly sensitive to antibiotics and their therapy must be tailored accordingly. Sometimes, very low, intermittent doses are effective for the patient with lupus.


Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown was the founder and chairman of the Arthritis Institute. He was a world renowned leader in arthritis research and treatment.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Swarthmore College and Johns Hopkins Medical School, he served as chief resident in Medicine at Johns Hopkins.

It was in 1939, while working at the Rockefeller Institute, that Dr. Brown discovered what he believed to be a link between rheumatoid arthritis and disease inducing agents later known as mycoplasmas -- which are directly affected by the tetracycline family of antibiotics.

Dr. Brown served as an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Director of Arthritis Research at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington D.C. and as professor of medicine and department chairman at George Washington School of Medicine in Washington D.C.

Dr. Brown was one of the founders of the American College of Rheumatology and was also a Trustee for the Arthritis Foundation.

In 1970, he left George Washington and founded the Arthritis Institute of the National Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, where he continued both antibiotic treatment and research of RA. During his career, he published approximately 100 papers in medical journals detailing his research and his theory as to the mechanism of rheumatic disease.

Dr. Brown died in April 1989, and the Arthritis Institute closed in 1996. Dr. Brown?s work continues through the Road Back Foundation.

THE ROAD BACK FOUNDATIONwas founded by patients who have seen significant recovery from rheumatic diseases through the use of antibiotics. It is because of these remarkable improvements and growing body of evidence that we are dedicated to spreading information about this treatment to patients, encouraging the medical profession to offer antibiotics as a safe and effective treatment for their rheumatic disease patients. Although antibiotic therapy has been met with controversy in some medical circles, an increasing volume of published research from around the world which supports this therapy is appearing in medical journals.  Reports indicate that rheumatic diseases may be triggered or caused by a microorganism, and that the preferred treatment is tetracycline drugs, although other antibiotics have been used successfully. The many patient stories and discussions on our web site lend further anecdotal proof of this theory.

Based on over 50 years of anecdotal successes and now on official studies, it is hoped that research and the considerable dollars involved will begin to channel into an area of investigation that will prove beneficial to the many patients who are devastated by the rheumatic diseases. Clinical trials for lupus have not yet been performed.

The Road Back Foundation supports studies and clinical trials of antibiotics in connective tissue/rheumatic disease, and provides the latest information on antibiotic therapy free of charge to patients and doctors around the world.

These activities are supported entirely by the generosity and gratitude of those we serve. RBF is a not-for profit; all of our officers and directors are unpaid volunteers. In the United States, your contribution is 100% tax deductible.


Visit The Road Back Foundation web site at:

The groundbreaking books listed below are important resources for people who want to understand antibiotic therapy used in the context of rheumatic disease. There are other books now published that you might explore to further understand the implications of antibiotic therapy used as a first line treatment option or in conjunction with additional approaches.

The New Arthritis Breakthrough by Henry Scammell with Thomas McPherson Brown

Scleroderma: The Proven Therapy That can Save Your Life by Henry Scammell

The Road Back Foundation does not engage in the practice of medicine. Consult with a physician to assess any medical treatment that is being considered. The Road Back Foundation encourages healthcare consumers to thoroughly investigate and understand all treatments and medications before proceeding. This material is for educational purposes only

The Road Back Foundation
P.O. Box 410184
Cambridge, MA 02141