Skin microarray patches that administer drugs directly into the bloodstream through thousands of individual “microneedles” may help solve the antibiotic resistance crisis.
“One of the biggest problems is that the huge majority of the drugs are taken orally. This means that a small quantity of the compound often finds its way into the colon, creating the perfect breeding ground for drug-resistant bacteria,” says study author Professor Ryan Donnelly, Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology of Queen’s University Belfast, in a news release.
“However, it is clearly impractical to expect patients to inject themselves at home, especially considering that >20 percent of people are needle-phobic. Admitting patients to hospital every time they need an antibiotic would quickly bankrupt healthcare providers.”
Professor Donnelly and his team hope to develop and evaluate a unique antibiotic patch that can bypass the gut bacteria and extend the useful lifespan of currently-available antibiotics. On the surface of the antibiotic patch will be tiny needles that painlessly pierce the skin, turning into a jelly-like material that keeps the holes open and allows delivery of antibiotics into the skin for absorption into the bloodstream, thus bypassing the gut bacteria.
“We hope to show that this unique antibiotic patch prevents resistance development. If we are successful, this approach will significantly extend the lifespan of existing antibiotics, allowing time for development of the next generation of antibiotics. In doing so, this work has the potential to save many lives,” Donnelly says.
Placebo patches have already been successfully tested on ten volunteers in a study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics. The next step is to show that they can deliver the correct dose of antibiotics, before testing them against drugs in capsule form.
“For the first time, we’re in control of the rate at which medicine goes into the skin,” Professor Donnelly says. “I started thinking: what are the big health challenges we can use this to address? There probably isn’t a bigger health challenge today than antibiotic resistance.”
Scientists hope that the drug technology could be used to treat bacterial infections within five years following further tests.
The Wellcome Trust, Britain’s largest medical research charity, will donate £900,000 to the project next year.
PHOTO CAPTION: Professor Ryan Donnelly along with a magnified prototype of his microneedles.Next Story