Editorial Feature

Improving Infectious Diseases Treatment with Nanotechnology: A Review

The advancement of nanotechnology is revolutionary for the challenges infectious disease treatment has on society. Infectious diseases cause a significant level of mortality and morbidity worldwide, seen through cases such as malaria, tuberculosis, (TB) or HIV.  With novel nanotechnology solutions, the obstacles that these infectious diseases trigger can be overcome by formulating drugs within nanocarriers.

Improving Infectious Diseases Treatment with Nanotechnology

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Nanomedicine uses nanoscale technology for medical applications, which can include the use of particles between 1 and 100 nm in size. The novel use of nanotechnology within medicine has become an exciting development in recent years, with innovative Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved concepts that can revolutionize the detection and treatment of diseases.

Infections are a significant burden worldwide, with high mortality rates associated with conditions such as lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis, diarrhea, HIV, malaria, and more. These infectious diseases cause a more significant effect within the developing world, where mortality rates associated with these conditions are the highest due to the limited supply of vaccines and anti-infectives.

Observations from temporal trends looking at mortality illustrate that although overall mortality numbers are decreasing, there is still a large gap between death numbers in high socio-demographic index (SDI) countries compared to their lower counterparts. Additionally, clinical trials for infectious diseases are also lower than trials for other disorders such as cardiovascular and even cancer, illustrating the necessity for advanced infectious disease treatment through nanotechnology.

Low SID Challenges 

Low socio-demographic index countries often face many challenges. This includes patients not adhering to therapies, the requirement of sustained patient monitoring, and other variables such as the inability to pay for drugs or even maintaining drug stability at high or humid temperatures.

These factors can present a major obstacle for low SDI countries from effectively treating patients with infections, from hospitals being unable to appropriately support their patients to patients being unable to access drugs.

In treating conditions such as HIV, TB, or malaria, there can be a heavy burden on the patients and healthcare systems due to long-term care. HIV would require lifetime treatment, whereas TB would require a combination of oral medication over several months to years. Prolonged treatment plans can result in a lack of adherence from patients, further impacting the treatment's efficacy, resulting in failure due to a lack of optimal drug levels.

Nanotechnology in Medicine 

The introduction and advancement in medicine utilizing nanotechnology can develop a more straightforward treatment regimen with lower dose frequency and less maintenance.

The utilization of injectable nanocarriers that can transport and deliver or release drugs over long periods of time would be revolutionary for the challenges faced by low SDI countries. Such drug delivery systems can include the use of nanocarriers, which control drug release through the use of an inactive vehicle such as a lipid or polymer, or through a slow breakdown of a drug, using poorly soluble mediums such as nano-drug crystals.

Long-acting injectable nanoparticles that work as antiretrovirals are a novel treatment method of reducing the frequency of doses for HIV patients. It is the most clinically advanced nanotechnology treatment for this virus. As this field advances, the research into integrating nanotechnology within medicine enables innovative strategies to provide solutions that will assist with progressing the quality of patient care. Nanotechnology like this also has the potential to be used as a preventative measure, which could benefit a large population who are at a higher risk for HIV.

The targeting ability that nanotechnology can provide is a significant benefit, helpful in advancing medicine and improving the treatment of infectious diseases. It would be greatly beneficial for malaria, usually treated with chemotherapy drugs that have adverse side effects of toxicity, missed doses, and the development of resistance.

How Will Nanotechnology Revolutionize Medicine?

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Parasites within the red blood cells can be challenging to treat. Using nanotechnology, targeting antimalaria treatments to the infected red blood cells would significantly improve the quality of treatment. The covalent attachment of heparin and monoclonal antibodies to liposomes has been found to target infected red blood cells in vitro. However, due to oral administration not being an effective route because of associated gastrointestinal instability, research into other strategies with a higher targeting ability is required.

Overcoming Obstacles Through Nanotechnology

Oral administration of drugs is preferred in low SDI countries due to having a hygiene disparity. Creating a drug within a nanocarrier with a higher targeting ability, with high efficacy even with oral administration, would be challenging for researchers. Additionally, the development of pharmaceuticals would need to be cost-effective for this novel field and have economic and social benefits for countries to be established.

The innovative solutions that nanotechnology can provide in medicine and treating infectious diseases is revolutionary. It can assist in reducing mortality rates, especially in low SDI areas, such as Africa, where 90% of all malaria cases and deaths occur. The disparity of infectious diseases is heavily burdened in low SDI countries, so having advanced nanotechnology improvements to treatments will reduce mortality rates and global disease cases. This would be a benefit to developed countries through advancing patient care and reducing the aid developing countries require for infectious disease support.

Infectious diseases cause global economic burdens and increased resistance against pathogens, which, if not reduced, can cause a global issue. Through the use of nanomedicine, therapeutic strategies can be made to be more effective in helping to treat and prevent the occurrence of infectious diseases. The result will be a reduction of opportunistic infections as well as a reduction in morbidity and mortality globally.

References and Further Reading

Kim PS, Read SW. (2010) Nanotechnology and HIV: potential applications for treatment and prevention. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Nanomed Nanobiotechnol. 2 (6), 693-702. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/wnan.118

Kirtane, A.R., Verma, M., Karandikar, P. et al. (2021) Nanotechnology approaches for global infectious diseases. Nat. Nanotechnol. 16, 369–384. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-021-00866-8

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Marzia Khan

Written by

Marzia Khan

Marzia Khan is a lover of scientific research and innovation. She immerses herself in literature and novel therapeutics which she does through her position on the Royal Free Ethical Review Board. Marzia has a MSc in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine as well as a BSc in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently working in the NHS and is engaging in a scientific innovation program.


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