Race to thwart an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance ‘threat’

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - HEALTH - VUYO MKIZE

THE world faces a global health cri­sis that ex­perts be­lieve could eclipse the HIV epi­demic if novel ap­proaches to treat­ment aren’t cre­ated – and fast.

An­tibi­otic re­sis­tance – dubbed a “se­ri­ous threat to mankind” by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion – has sci­en­tists scratch­ing their heads try­ing to find so­lu­tions that can mod­ify and main­tain the drugs’ in­fec­tion-fight­ing prop­er­ties.

But, as a Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Natal team has as­serted, the re­sis­tance is­sue may not be in the drugs it­self but in their de­liv­ery.

The uni­ver­sity’s Novel Drug De­liv­ery unit is man­u­fac­tur­ing medicine that will tar­get the site of the in­fec­tion, which could spell the end of tak­ing an­tibi­otics and im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of cur­rent drugs.

Pro­fes­sor Thiru­mala Goven­der, with Dr Rahul Kal­ha­pure, heads the team.

Goven­der said: “In­fec­tious dis­eases, espe­cially in Africa, are the main causes of death. And while an­tibi­otics have rev­o­lu­tionised the treat­ment of in­fec­tions, nu­mer­ous lim­i­ta­tions ex­ist with their cur­rent dosage forms avail­able for pa­tient ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Most drugs pre­scribed have to be for­mu­lated into a dosage form – tablets, cap­sules or in­jecta­bles.

Ac­cord­ing to Goven­der, of­ten only a frac­tion of these drugs reach the in­fec­tion site, so a pa­tient has to take the an­tibi­otics nu­mer­ous times a day for sev­eral days.

“This is a ma­jor rea­son for higher doses than re­quired be­ing ad­min­is­tered and for pa­tients suf­fer­ing from se­vere side-ef­fects. Poor sol­u­bil­ity and sta­bil­ity of these drugs in these dosage forms is also a prob­lem,” she said.

“These fac­tors con­trib­ute to treat­ment fail­ure, poor pa­tient com­pli­ance, drug re­sis­tance and deaths.”

It has been re­ported that up to 700 000 die ev­ery year of drug-re­sis­tant in­fec­tions, in­clud­ing drug-re­sis­tant TB, HIV and malaria.

Goven­der and her team are fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal-for­mu­la­tion ma­te­ri­als and nano-drug de­liv­ery sys­tems.

“We are us­ing nano-tech­nol­ogy, which is the sci­ence deal­ing with the de­sign, pro­duc­tion and ap­pli­ca­tion of ma­te­ri­als in the nano-scale range,” she said.

“The de­liv­ery of an­tibi­otics via nano-sized drug de­liv­ery sys­tems such as nano-par­ti­cles, nano-mi­celles, nano-plexes, solid lipid nano-par­ti­cles, etc… in­stead of con­ven­tional dosage forms is be­ing widely in­ves­ti­gated as an ap­proach to im­prov­ing an­tibi­otic de­liv­ery and erad­i­cat­ing mi­cro­bial re­sis­tance.”

The re­searchers have com­pleted a proof-of-con­cept study, where they de­signed and syn­the­sised a lipid that not only tar­geted the in­fec­tion site, but re­leased an en­cap­su­lated an­tibi­otic drug to bind to bac­te­ria.

The study has been ac­cepted for pub­li­ca­tion in a lead­ing in­ter­na­tional jour­nal for drug de­liv­ery.

“This medicine shows po­ten­tial to tar­get and re­lease an an­tibi­otic specif­i­cally at an in­fec­tion site, main­tain ef­fec­tive con­cen­tra­tions for ex­tended time, and de­crease ex­po­sure to other healthy sites and ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria in the body,” Goven­der said.

But, it will be a while be­fore this kind of medicine was avail­able.

Re­searchers would do more to op­ti­mise this medicine be­fore it be­came avail­able to the pub­lic. It would also be tested on an­i­mals first.


A Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Natal re­search team is man­u­fac­tur­ing medicine that will tar­get the site of an in­fec­tion, which could spell the end of an­tibi­otics and im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of cur­rent drugs.

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