A preclinical efficacy study demonstrated that TB drugs given once a week over a four-week period were just as effective as daily doses of the drug over the same period when the CSIR teams drug delivery technology is used.

The biggest problem with the current therapeutic regimen for TB is that the drugs should be taken once a day for a period of six to nine months in order to be effective. Also, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Direct Observed Treatment shortcourse DOTs programme, the drugs need to be taken in the presence of a healthcare practitioner, says Dr Boitumelo Semete, senior researcher in the drug delivery programme at the CSIR.

Due to logistics, cost and other considerations, this is problematic for South African patients, especially in rural areas. As these drugs furthermore have a number of nasty side effects, many patients never complete their treatment course. This slims down their chances of recovery quite significantly, says Semete.

She explains that to improve patient compliance with TB treatment, the CSIR team is developing a way that will ensure that the antibiotic drugs are released and taken up in the affected cells over a longer period of time, using nanoparticles. This means that patients will only have to take the drugs once a week instead of daily and the associated side-effects will be less. It is also hoped that, due to more effective delivery and improved bioavailability of the drug, the total treatment period will be significantly reduced.

The preclinical efficacy study just completed is strong confirmation of the potential of the drug delivery technology. While there is still a long road ahead before we can take our technology to human clinical trials and eventually make the treatment available to patients, we have just reached a significant milestone along the way, she says.

Source: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

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