Race to thwart antibiotic resistance ‘threat’
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.