Treating stroke patients with antibiotics and paracetamol could save up to 25,000 lives each year, researchers have said.
A £4m study is to investigate whether routinely offering these drugs to people who have recently suffered a stroke helps to prevent the complications such as infection and fever.
Researchers say that up to half of stroke patients suffer high temperatures following their illness and a third contract infections that increase their risk of death and disability.
Around a quarter of patients have difficulty swallowing and face an increased risk of choking as a result.
The initiative, which will involve almost 4000 patients from across Europe, will test whether offering drugs immediately following a stroke reduces the risk of these complications occurring.
Patients aged 66 years or older will be randomly allocated to receive either preventative treatment in the first four days of their hospitalisation, or to standard care.
Those receiving preventative care will be offered paracetamol to prevent high fevers and antibiotics to lower the risk of infections.
Prof Malcolm Macleod from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, who is leading the study in the UK, said: “We have made great progress in treating stroke, but it still remains a major cause of death and disability.
“This new trial aims to understand how to use existing treatments most effectively and has the potential to reduce risk of death or disability for as many as 25,000 people each year, at very low costs.”
Stroke is the second leading cause of death globally and accounts for the loss of almost seven million lives each year. It is also the second most common cause of long-term disability.
The trial is led by the University of Utrecht and funded by the Horizon 2020.