By Richard Liang
Malaria is still a potent threat in regions across the globe despite attempts at mass drug administration. Existing drugs that limit its transmission are difficult to distribute and administer in large groups. An orally administered drug would be most efficient, but oral drugs are often too rapidly metabolized by the digestive system to be effective. In a recent study led by Andrew M. Bellinger from the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers have developed a new product that can be consumed orally, with more prolonged protection against transmission.
The product is a gelatin capsule containing Ivermectin developed using a computer-aided design software (CAD) and printing molds of the desired geometry with 3D additive technology. This form of Ivermectin implants itself in the pylorus of the stomach after ingestion. It acts as an Ivermectin reservoir in the stomach that releases sustained dosages of the drug, preventing person to person transmission of malaria by killing the vector mosquito when it consumes the blood serum of a dosed individual. Usually Ivermectin has a half-life of 12 hours in pigs (18 hours in humans) but with the new sustained dosage system, 96% of the residual Ivermectin was still intact after 14 days, which was detected using x-rays.
When tested on a pig, the drug implant was able to maintain stability in the low-pH gastric environment for an extended period of time and did not block the passage of food down the GI tract once it degraded. As the gastrointenstinal anatomy of pigs is similar to that of humans, it is likely that the drug will be safe and effective for humans.
Further trials are needed to test the efficacy of this modified version of Ivermectin against mosquito vectors in field settings. Future tests include administering the drug to non-human primates and dogs, with the possibility of later clinical trials. With further research, it is possible that the Ivermectin capsule can be widely administered among human populations at risk for infection to impede the spread of malaria.
- Bellinger, et al., Oral, ultra-long-lasting drug delivery: application toward malaria elimination goals. Science Translational Medicine (2016) Vol. 8, Issue 365, pp. 365ra157 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aag2374.
- Image retrieved from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Malaria_Cells_.jpg