November 17, 2016

Malarial benefits noted for long-acting drugs, treated nets

Written by Lisa Schnirring

This post originally appeared on the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

An oral capsule that unfolds into a star shape once it enters the stomach can deliver long-acting malaria protection that might offer a new weapon against the disease, and there’s hope that the new drug delivery system could also help battle other diseases—such as tuberculosis and HIV—that require strict medication adherence.

A research team based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported the first promising results today from tests on pigs, plus mathematical modeling estimates showing how the new drug-delivery method could fit into malaria elimination strategy. They published their findings in the latest edition of Science Translational Medicine.

In another key malaria development today, researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled research affirming the disease-cutting effects of treated bed nets in parts of Africa that bear a heavy malaria burden, even in areas where the mosquitoes are resistant to the insecticide.

Long-acting platform may prove versatile

The malaria drug study marks the one of earliest applications of the new platform, which was initially developed at MIT and is now licensed by Lyndra, an early-stage biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Mass.

The oral capsule used in the study is about the size of a fish-oil supplement and contains polymers and other materials mixed with ivermectin, used to interrupt the spread of malaria and other parasites. Once in the stomach, the size and star shape of the unfolded capsule keeps it there long enough deliver therapy for 7 days or longer before it breaks down and passes through the gastrointestinal tract. In experiments with pigs, researchers showed long-acting controlled release of ivermectin for 2 weeks.

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