Doxycyline – the antibiotic commonly used to treat acne, sinus infections and urinary tract infections – can also prevent tissue damage caused by emphysema, researchers said.

A team from the Universities of Leeds and California, San Diego studied a protein called VEGF found that the antibiotic can boost the body’s ability to protect against damage to the lungs, since VEGF helps maintain healthy lung tissue and emphysema suffers have low levels of the protein.

Dr. Harry Rossiter from Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences said the lungs of healthy people have an active restorative system, but in diseased lungs, the body’s natural protective processes are inhibited as a result of the low levels of the VEGF protein.

Rossiter and his team reduced the levels of the protein in the lungs of mice and at the same time gave them doxycyline. They found the lung damage in the mice was minimal in these mice, compared with the group of mice that was not given the drug.

Dr. Ellen C. Breen from the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said it is important to note that this is not a cure and the research team has more work ahead of them.