New technology developed for malaria treatment

January 17, 2019

Researchers from MIT, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed an ingestible capsule to treat malaria, a mosquito-borne illness  that is attributed to an estimated 219 million morbidity cases and 435 000 related deaths globally in 2017, according to the World Health Organisation.  Malaria exhibits whole-body symptoms including chills, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, seizures, kidney, and heart failure – and treatment is cumbersome. Their work has been published in Science Translational Medicine journal.

The new drug can stay in the stomach and deliver slow doses of malaria medication over time. The unfolding, edible capsule can act as a vessel for long-term medications (such as Ivermectin, a particularly potent malarial drug, and which the team used for the study).  The team has created a swallowable pill, about the size of a fish oil capsule that, after reaching the stomach, expands into a star-like shape and releases doses of medication for about 10 to 14 days, without blocking the passage of food digestives or harming the organ’s walls. The pill will break down at the end of the treatment period, passing through the remaining digestive system.

Meanwhile, the researchers also pointed out the challenge of treatment compliance due to procedural and geographical factors, to cite a few.  Some slow-release drug devices require them to be implanted by a medical professional.  Most people who contract malaria live in tropical regions, including Southeast Asia, and both central and southern regions of America and Africa. These are often in remote or rural areas, with limited access to such procedure.

To address the malaria problem requires easy delivery of the drugs to patients, especially in hard-to-reach places, and ensure those patients stay on their treatment program.

Andrew Bellinger, a cardiologist and co-author of the paper thinks that a one-time pill that can deliver a full course of medication is easier for doctors to give out, and for patients to take. The treatment innovation is currently being licensed by a health care company that Bellinger co-founded.

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Category: Education, Features

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