Hope side effect of drug can be eliminated.

A SAFER version of a potent antibiotic for serious infections that often causes hearing loss has been developed by scientists.

An estimated 20% to 60% of all patients treated with aminoglycoside antibiotics - including newborn babies - experience partial or complete deafness, which is irreversible.

Now researchers have produced a modified version of one of the drugs that works effectively in mice without causing hearing loss or kidney damage, another common side effect.

Aminoglycosides, which include streptomycin and gentamicin, are widely used to treat serious infections and sepsis, a deadly condition marked by the immune system going into overdrive. They are also given to infants with life-threatening infections.

But the drugs have serious side effects, including hearing loss due to the destruction of inner ear hair cells that help turn sound vibrations into nerve signals.

Professor Anthony Ricci, from Stanford University in the US, said: "If we can eventually prevent people from going deaf from tak-tak ing these antibiotics, in my mind, we will have been successful. Our goal is to replace the existing aminoglycosides with ones that aren't toxic."

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