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article imageEssential Science: Nanotechnology provides antimalarial drug

By Tim Sandle     Feb 12, 2018 in Science
Malaria affects millions of people worldwide and it is one of the world’s most dangerous diseases. In a positive development, researchers have developed a new medicine, described as ‘long lasting’, to aid the prevention of malaria.
The new medicine comes from the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. With the new breakthrough the scientists have utilized nanotechnology in order to improve the delivery of an existing antimalarial drug called atovaquone. This is through a novel injectable format, which allows the drug to maintain blood concentration of the drug for several weeks following the application of a single dose.
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter at an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. This forms part of the evolving field of nanomedicine, which focuses on the treatment of disease in the human body.
The type of nanotechnology used is solid drug nanoparticles. These are a type of nanotechnology that enhances drug exposure and improves the treatment or prevention of several diseases, including malaria.
A female Anopheles albimanus mosquito is not only responsible for the spread of Malaria  but the Zik...
A female Anopheles albimanus mosquito is not only responsible for the spread of Malaria, but the Zika virus. The healthcare costs for these two diseases is astronomical, but was not included in the study.
James Gathany /CDC
Malaria is an infectious disease of animals (including humans), as Digital Journal’s Essential Science has previously discussed. The disease is caused by parasitic microorganisms (Plasmodium). The parasites are transmitted into the body via a bite from an infected mosquito into bloodstream. The parasites enter the liver and then infect the organ. New parasites then enter the bloodstream, which triggers the symptoms of malaria such as fever. The disease, when left untreated, is invariably fatal.
The approach differs from conventional malaria treatments which are by oral doses of tablets. The downside with tablets is that they can cause complications. Moreover, to be effective, patients need to take tablets daily. Non-adherence negatively effects the success of the medication.
With the nanotechnology, the particle administered are very tiny at just 1/500th the width of human hair. These particles are, however, effective and provide experimentally demonstrable long-acting injectable effects. With the experiment, mice were tested. The mice injected with the nanomedicine were fully protected from the malaria parasite.
Glass representation of the parasite that causes malaria
Glass representation of the parasite that causes malaria
Luke Jerram
Specifically, the mice were treated with the medication and then intravenously exposed to the malarial parasite Plasmodium berghei sporozoites (a motile spore-like stage in the life cycle). The mice were then monitored for 42 days for parasites, and if none were seen they were deemed to be protected.
The next step is to move towards human trials. Commenting on the research, the lead scientist Professor Steve Rannard said: “The ability of this nanomedicine to protect from infection by malaria may provide an additional tool in the global arsenal used to combat malaria in non-immune travelers and ultimately people who live in endemic areas of the world.”
He adds: “Since atovaquone is already licensed for use in humans and the nanomedicine contains ingredients already used in other medicines, it could be enter clinical trials within a very short timescale.”
The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications. The research is titled “Long-acting injectable atovaquone nanomedicines for malaria prophylaxis.”
The international United Nations campaign Nothing But Nets made a stop in Toronto to help bring awar...
The international United Nations campaign Nothing But Nets made a stop in Toronto to help bring awareness to residents that malaria is a serious global issue. They urged people to donate money to buy a net for those refugees living in African camps.
In an alternative nanotechnology study, profiled by Digital Journal, German researchers have developed a test that examines for the presence of the malaria parasite in the blood. This research is based on the premise that the earlier that a patient can be diagnosed the better, since the earlier treatment can start then the greater the chance there is of the treatment being successful.
Essential Science
A hostess gives a yoga class during a free event organized by Fitbit cardio-watch company on the San...
A hostess gives a yoga class during a free event organized by Fitbit cardio-watch company on the Santa Monica Pier
Angela Weiss, Getty Images/AFP/File
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last we looked at wearable fitness devices and reviewed research that cast doubt on the accuracy of the instrumentation.
Data-driven science, the interdisciplinary field of scientific methods, is increasingly being used by governments and businesses to develop policy and strategy. The week before we looked at some examples of data science in action.
More about Malaria, antimalaria, Parasites, Nanotechnology