Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a drug delivery system that could ensure a sustained release of antibiotics in the stomachs of patients with tuberculosis (TB).
The device is intended to help TB patients switch from their six-month course of daily antibiotics to monthly doses.
TB is one of the world’s deadliest infections and responsible for more than one million deaths each year.
The current treatment for the disease involves a six-month course of daily antibiotics, which is difficult to adhere for nearly 50% of patients.
In an effort to provide an easy alternative, the MIT team created a coiled wired that can be loaded with antibiotics and inserted into the stomach using a nasogastric tube.
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The device slowly releases antibiotics over in the stomach one month, in turn avoiding the need for daily intake of medicines.
MIT Mechanical Engineering department assistant professor Giovanni Traverso said: “Having a system that allows you to ensure the patient receives the full treatment course could be really transformational.
“When you consider the situation with tuberculosis, where you have multiple grams of antibiotics that have to be taken every day, for many months, we need another solution.”
Made of nitinol, the device can hold up to 600 ‘pills’ of different antibiotics along its wire. The drugs are enveloped in polymers that can be adjusted to control the drug release rate.
Upon reaching the stomach, the wire forms a coil and avoids further passage in the digestive system.
When tested in pigs, the prototype of the new device demonstrated the ability to release a variety of antibiotics at a constant rate for 28 days.
After all the drugs are delivered, the device can be retrieved via the nasogastric tube using a magnet that can attract the coil.
Researchers hope that the device could cut healthcare costs. Analysis by David Collins, an economist from Boston University, showed that the approach could reduce treatment costs in India by approximately $8,000 per patient.
The team envisions applications of the device for the treatment of hepatitis C, alcohol addiction and other types of substance abuse.