Malaria is a serious public health concern for both non-immune travelers and populations that live in endemic areas. Though promising developments are being made in the laboratory, in spite of all these advances we do not have any available vaccine against malaria which could reliably provide high levels of long-lived protection.
Currently, Antimalarial drugs are the only available alternatives to control malarial infections, thus drugs continue to be the preferred choice of physicians for malaria treatments. The present malaria prophylaxis requires a daily or weekly oral drug-dosing regimen which is commonly associated with nonadherence.
In a collaborative study conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine- a novel long-acting medicine for the prevention of malaria has been reported. Researchers have developed a nanotechnology-based drug delivery system for an antimalarial drug that provides long-term protection from malaria after a single injection into the muscle. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
“There are no current vaccines for malaria, and although our invention isn’t a vaccine we are hoping it can be deployed in a similar way to some other vaccines in that the injection protects against malaria infection for at least 1 month before another injection is given,” said Prof. Steve Rannard.
“While building upon recent HIV nanomedicine research; we felt there was a real opportunity to provide an additional tool to combat malaria. We are predominantly motivated by an ambition to develop nanotechnology-based healthcare solutions that are effective, but also affordable in low- and middle-income countries. The thought of our research helping to save lives is really what motivates us,” said Andrew Owen, Prof. of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool.
What is really exciting about this research is that a single administration of newly developed nanomedicine was able to protect mice from malaria for 28 days. “Since the drug we used (atovaquone) has a half-life eight-times faster in mice than humans we would expect much longer protection to be afforded in people. This could clearly have a huge impact on the epidemic,” said Prof. Andrew Owen.
According to the study, long-lasting protection against malaria from a single injection will mitigate the need to take daily oral antimalarial drugs for prophylaxis, which is both more convenient and may be more effective because people sometimes forget to take tablets.
“It is important to recognize though that any pharmacological strategy for malaria prophylaxis will continue to need to be combined with other measures such as insect repellent, long sleeves and trousers, sleeping in mosquito-free environments and using insecticide-treated bed nets,” said the investigators.
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