FRIDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Drug therapy that combines a derivative of the antibiotic tetracycline and a synthetic derivative of an amino acid may help patients suffering from traumatic brain injury, a new study in animals suggests.

Rats treated with the therapy -- a combination of the antibiotic minocycline and N-acetylcysteine -- showed marked improvement in reasoning and memory, according to researchers from the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center.

Currently, there are no drugs available that effectively treat traumatic brain injury, or TBI. A number of single drugs have failed clinical trials, but U.S. researchers decided to test various combinations of five drugs on rats with experimental brain injuries.

"There is a great need for drugs to treat TBI. Perhaps the fastest way to get treatments to the clinic is to combine drugs already known to be both safe and effective," study corresponding author Peter J. Bergold, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said in a center news release.

"The combination of minocycline and N-acetylcysteine showed a large, synergistic improvement of cognition and memory after experimental traumatic brain injury. We are continuing these studies to get this combination in a clinical trial," he said.

Each year in the United States, about 1.7 million people suffer a TBI, according to background information in the news release. Most of these are concussions or mild forms of brain injury, but more serious traumatic brain injuries cause a considerable number of deaths and permanent cases of disability.

The research was recently published online in the journal PLoS One.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about traumatic brain injury.