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Nano-medicine provides long-acting malaria protection
February 3, 2018, 4:22 pm

Scientists at the University of Liverpool in the UK and at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US say they may have a breakthrough 'long-acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Every year, malaria afflicts hundreds of millions of people and kills hundreds of thousands of children, especially in the developing world. Despite considerable success in reducing the worldwide prevalence of malaria, its incidence in visitors to endemic areas has continued to rise steadily.

Currently, the best available prevention of malaria requires oral dosing of antimalarial tablets. However, chronic oral dosing of these medicines has significant complications because healthy people need to strictly adhere to the medication in order for effective prophylaxis to occur.

The scientists say that by using nanotechnology to improve the delivery of an existing antimalarial drug in a novel injectable format can maintain blood concentration of the drug for weeks or months following a single dose.

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supra-molecular scale. Nano-medicine is the application of nanotechnology to the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of disease in the human body.

Solid Drug Nanoparticles (SDNs) are a nanotechnology with favorable characteristics to enhance drug exposure and improve the treatment or prevention of several diseases, including HIV and malaria.

Scientists have previously shown SDNs to be effective for oral delivery of drugs, but this is the first time they have shown benefits for a long-acting injectable (LAI) format. These particles, with an approximate diameter of 1/500th the width of a human hair, once injected into the muscle, establish a drug depot that releases drug into the bloodstream over an extended period of time.

Through the use of this technology the research team developed an LAI version of a daily anti-malarial tablet (atovaquone) which provided prophylactic blood concentrations in mice for a period of 28 days. Moreover, since mice eliminate the drug much more rapidly than in humans, a much longer duration of protection might be expected in people.

Atovaquone is already licensed for use in humans and the nano-medicine contains ingredients already used in other medicines, so the technique could enter clinical trials within a very short timescale allowing it to potentially impact large numbers of people and significantly prevent the transmission of malaria.

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