IIT-H team develops essential oil delivery system to treat fungal diseases

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 28, 2020

A view of Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad campus

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-H), have developed a novel delivery system based on essential oils in the treatment of diseases caused by fungi.

In addition to treating infections without running the risk of inducing drug resistance, the drug thus delivered can counter fungi that have developed resistance to conventional, anti-fungal drugs.

Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi have a remarkable capacity to evolve resistance to antimicrobial agents used to destroy them. There are several instances of this and the drug industry is facing a big challenge with many antibiotics becoming less effective.

The study, published in the journal Materialia, has been led by Mudrika Khandelwal, Associate Professor, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering, IIT-H, and her student Shivakalyani Adepu.

The research was supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Grants from the US conglomerate AT&T.

As a follow-up of the findings, the researchers are developing a prototype, anti-fungal hygiene products with funding from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).

According to Mudrika Khandelwal, there is a need for developing alternate, non-resistance inducing treatment options for fungal disease. “Given the prevalence of fungal afflictions such as vaginal infections, diaper rash, athlete’s foot, and nail fungus caused by the Candida family of fungi, drug resistance can become life-threatening," she explained.

The IIT-H team turned to natural products to solve this problem. The idea of using carriers for controlled release of drugs has been around and various types of carriers, including polymeric microcapsules, nanoemulsions/colloids and hydrogels have been developed for various drugs.

According to Shivakalyani, herbal essential oils and their ingredients are a promising class of effective antimicrobials Thymol found in oregano oils, carvacrol found in thyme and eugenol found in clove oil, have excellent antimicrobial action against all types of Candida fungi. The problem with essential oils and their components is that they are sensitive to temperature, light, and pH, and decompose easily, Shivakalyani added.

A way to overcome this problem is to design a suitable carrier system that can protect the oils from these factors, and yet, release them in a controlled manner so that the antifungal action can be fully harnessed. This is where the IIT-H team has achieved progress. The team is developing antifungal panty liners for mitigating vaginal candidiasis. The developed formulation can also be used as a transdermal patch /mucoadhesive patch to treat skin and mucocutaneous infections without inducing resistance in the fungal species.

The researchers chose polylactic acid microcapsules to encapsulate the essential oil ingredients and made necessary changes. Polylactic acid polymers are biocompatible and biodegradable and are already widely used in the medical field.

Published on January 28, 2020

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