The nanotechnology approach to global infectious disease

(Nanowerk News) In recent years we have seen a rise in the global transmission of infectious diseases. From the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to the 2015 Zika virus epidemic, and the 2009 swine flu outbreak, major infectious diseases have been prevalent all around the world. Viral infections are a large contributor to the global disease burden. Lower respiratory infections such as tuberculosis and bronchitis, mosquito-borne infections such as malaria, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are associated with high mortality rates. New advances in nanotechnology seek to innovate both the treatment and detection of infectious diseases.
When treating individuals for infectious diseases, a plethora of challenges are at hand, these challenges become even more difficult to overcome in low socio-demographic index countries. Drug-resistant pathogens, the lack of a safe effective drug, and insufficient patient adherence are major obstacles to successful treatment. On top of these obstacles, the inability to afford treatment, poor procurement practices, and lack of proper storage for medications are roadblocks to infectious disease treatments in developing countries. The innovation of nanotechnology in the treatment of infectious diseases has the potential to aid and simplify the treatment of patients across the globe.
Many infectious diseases such as HIV require continuous, constant treatment, for many patients this can be overwhelming and lead to poor patient adherence. Lower respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis likewise require intricate pill regimens for an extended period of time.
Nanotechnology can be used to take this burden off of patients and improve the likelihood of the treatment's success. Researchers have been pursuing two different categories of injectable nanocarriers that can be used to deliver drugs for a longer, continuous period of time. These nanocarriers can control the release of a drug with the use of excipients, or the gradual dissolution of poorly soluble drugs suspended in interstitial fluid. The sustained release of a drug can increase its effectiveness immensely.
NeXstar Pharmaceuticals developed and tested a liposomal formulation of amikacin (amikacin is an antibiotic that requires frequent administration and close monitoring). When testing on rats they found that the new formulation was able to increase the drug’s half-life by eight times through gradual release.
A downside to some excipient-based drugs is their requirement for larger volumes of excipients to properly administer the slow release of the drug. The need for a larger quantity of excipient restricts the size of the doses that can be delivered. To avoid this, scientists are developing nano-milled drug crystals enveloped in an aqueous dispersion. Within interstitial fluid, a drug’s absorption rate is heavily affected by its size on a molecular level. Nano-milled drug crystals prevent the need for large volumes of excipients to control the release of a drug.
A drawback to all slow-release drug systems is the possibility of lengthened exposures to sub-therapeutic doses, with these low exposures the patient may develop resistance to the drug.
Many researchers have been interested in utilizing nanotechnology to create targeted drug delivery systems. Nanoencapsulation allows drugs to passively target both macrophages and infected tissues. Nanocarriers can easily clear macrophages, bringing drugs to the infection treatment site. When treating infectious diseases that suffer from low penetration of infectious tissues, the encapsulation of nanocarriers provides the option of targeting drug absorption to the infected tissues.
This treatment strategy would come in handy when treating tuberculosis with antiretrovirals at cavitary lesion sites.
Pathogen resistance is a large obstacle that can be encountered when treating infectious diseases. Resistant pathogens become increasingly difficult to treat, posing a threat to the drug’s success, leaving the patient vulnerable to the disease at hand. Drug resistance happens for plenty of reasons including the overuse and misuse of drugs. Another more complex cause can be the uneven distribution of viral pathogens and drug molecules across the body of a cell. Different molecules tend to gather in specific parts of the cell. If the pathogen the drug is meant to treat is not present in the area the drug molecules are located, the pathogens have an increased chance of becoming resistant to treatment.
To combat this issue, encapsulated nanocarriers can target and deliver drug molecules to an established area within the cell, improving the drug's effectiveness and decreasing the chances of pathogen resistance. Infectious diseases are a leading cause of mortality all over the globe, and their effect on underprivileged communities and low socio-demographic countries are even stronger.
New, developing nanotechnology has the potential to improve, and simplify the treatment of many infectious diseases. The simplification of drug administration with the use of injectable nanocarriers can lessen the burden of both patients and providers that require continuous treatment. The sustained release of drugs through nanocarriers has the potential to not only improve treatment efficacy but improve patient adherence and procurement to treatment as well.
Advancing the treatments of infectious diseases through innovations in nanotechnology can increase the quality of life in parts of the world, especially where quality healthcare is difficult to receive.
Source: By Makenzie Kelly. She is a content writer for PDF Supply, AX Control, and Do Supply Inc.
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