Researchers at the University of California San Deigo have successfully used tiny micromotors loaded with antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection in the stomachs of mice, according to a study published today in Nature Communications.
The tiny drug-delivery vehicles are powered by gastric acid, pushing them through the stomach and releasing cargo in a specific region, based on the acid-level.
Oral drugs, including antibiotics, can be damaged by gastric acid. To effectively treat bacterial infections, healthcare workers prescribe antibiotics in combination with proton pump inhibitors to suppress the production of stomach acid.
But when proton pump inhibitors are taken for a long time or in high doses, they can bring about nasty side effects like headaches and diarrhea.
The nanoengineers at UC San Diego devised micromotors that can neutralize gastric acid and deliver antibiotics, eliminating the need for proton pump inhibitors.
“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralization with therapeutic action,” co-first author Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila said in prepared remarks.
Researchers evaluated the micromotor drug-delivery system in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections. The micromotors were given to mice once a day for five days. Then the scientists assessed the bacterial count in each mouse stomach.
They concluded that the micromotor treatment was slightly more effective than when the same dose of clarithromycin was administered with proton pump inhibitors.
The results are promising, according to researchers, but there is still work to be done. Next, the team plans to test different drug combinations with the micromotors and compare the performance of micromotors in vivo with standard therapies for stomach infections.