UKZN Developing New Medicines to Fight Antibiotic Resistance
UKZN’s Novel Drug Delivery Unit is designing and manufacturing several new medicines to fight antibiotic resistance under the leadership of Professor Thirumala Govender and her team which includes post-doctoral Fellow, Dr Rahul Kalhapure.
The team’s recent achievements include the successful filing of a patent application in the United Kingdom, winning a national competition for publishing their pharmaceutical research results, and having several articles on effective medicines published in high quality journals
Govender and her team, including Dr Chunderika Mocktar, Dr Sanil Singh, Dr Sanjeev Rambharose, Professor Mahmoud Soliman and several postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, are focusing on the development of innovative pharmaceutical formulation materials and nanodrug delivery systems as solutions to overcome challenges with current dosage forms (such as tablets and capsules) in which antibiotics are administered to patients.
Govender says even if new drugs are developed, their efficacy in the patient can be affected if they continue to be administered in conventional dosage forms, thus creating a major research area.
‘Various types of advanced and new generation nanodrug delivery systems such as nanomicelles, nanoplexes, and polymersomes with superior materials and architectural designs have been prepared by our team and have shown superior activity against sensitive and resistant bacteria.
‘We have just completed a proof-of-concept study where we designed and synthesised a novel type of lipid which is a material capable of forming “intelligent” nanoparticles to release an encapsulated antibiotic drug to a specific change in body conditions at infection sites.’
The team’s study has been accepted for publication in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, a leading international journal in drug delivery.
‘This nanoantibiotic medicine shows potential to target and release an antibiotic specifically at an infection site, maintain effective concentrations for extended time as well as decreasing exposure to other healthy sites and beneficial bacteria in the body,’ said Govender.
She said a medicine that administers a lower dose but exposes bacteria to higher concentrations for longer exposure times, can improve the destruction of resistant bacteria, decrease resistance development, decrease side effects and administration frequency and improve patient compliance.
This can lead to improved treatment of various diseases associated with bacterial infections and can thus save lives.
The project is being undertaken together with the following national and international collaborators: the University of Witwatersrand, Tohoku University (Japan), the University of Iowa (USA), the Mumbai Institute of Technology (India) and Concordia University (Canada)).
The project is funded by the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the South African National Research Foundation, the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform and UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.
Govender, who completed a PhD in Nanotechnology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, is currently Professor of Pharmacy in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Head of the Drug Delivery Research Unit and Head of the NanoHealth Pillar of the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform at UKZN.
In recognition of her scientific expertise in pharmaceutical technology, Govender is currently appointed as an Expert Evaluator on the Medicines Control Council of South Africa for the quality evaluation of new medicines for regulatory approval. She is also a past Vice-Chairperson of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa.
Words by: Nombuso Dlamini