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Microneedle Patches Could Slow Antibiotic Resistance’s Terrifying Rise

You wouldn't want the needles Professor Ryan Donnelly is holding, but the real thing is a tiny fraction of this size, to the point where we can barely see a patch being applied. University of Belfast

You wouldn’t want the needles Professor Ryan Donnelly is holding, but the real thing is a tiny fraction of this size, to the point where we can barely see a patch being applied. University of Belfast

Skin patches that are made of thousands of tiny needles could be   capable of offering antibiotics directly to the bloodstream, by doing so, it could help avoid a major path for resistance to appear and spread. Like most methods of controlling bacterial disease, this is unlikely to prove a permanent solution, although it could delay the day when long vanquished diseases become untreatable, and give us the time to find other potential solutions.

It is commonly accepted that more and more bacteria turn less vulnerable to the drugs that have used to save so many lives,  so normal solutions could be taken in two occasions, namely engaged in producing new antibiotics more rapidly than resistance can evolve, or using the ones we have more sparingly.

However, Professor Ryan Donnelly of the University of Belfast has found an alternative, ,because he discovered that  resistance often arose in the gut, as oral antibiotics interacted with bacteria there on the way to the blood.

Therefore, it is quite effective to Inject drugs straight into the bloodstream so as to cut out this path to the development of resistance. As Donnelley said, it was obviously impractical to expect patients to inject themselves at home, especially taking it into account that more than 20% of people are needle-phobic. But, admitting patients to hospital every time they need an antibiotic would quickly bankrupt healthcare providers.

What is demanding is a approach to administer medications to the blood that can be easily done by ordinary person, so  microneedle patches would be potential solution. These are arrays of tiny needles, sitting on something, just like a band-aid, and each needle is too small to cause pain when they pierce the skin. Being made of a substance, these needles, when being admitted into the skin, turn to a jelly-like consistency that allows antibiotics to follow. Each microneedle carries a tiny amount of medication, but an entire patch is the equivalent of a dose with a hypodermic syringe.

So far microneedle patches have already aroused some remarkable excitement for their possibility to deliver vaccines in places where there are not enough skilled medical staff. In addition, these microneedles don’t need refrigeration the way traditional vaccines do. It is also hoped that their less invasive nature would mollify the fears of anti-vaxxers.

In Donnelly’s work previously published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics, it was demonstrated that people could  self-administer placebo-carrying versions of these patches with ease. He is now in the position that more secured funding is available to go on with experiments using antibiotics, which, if successful, could allow antibiotic microneedles to come up on the market in five years time.

 

Last year Emory University confirmed the success of a phase I clinical trial admitting the flu vaccine through microneedle patches. It is hoped this will help find the solution to the surprisingly low rate of take-up of influenza prevention, even among medical professionals. However, Donnelly might have discovered an even more important approach.

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