Malaria parasite — Plasmodium falciparum — beware, your nemesis is coming! The new drug delivery system, which comes with a ‘time temperature clock’, has the potential to neutralise the mosquito’s sting.

It is being termed as a polymer-based nano medicine to tame the malaria parasite. The parasite has been able to ‘dodge and fox’ drugs, repellents and continues to traumatise people across the world.

The drug will be a potentially new weapon say the scientists from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) who have developed the nano medicine. They have used biodegradable, porous, polymeric nano capsules, which efficiently deliver the drug into the body and control the action of the P falciparum.

Pradip Paik of the UoH, now on lien with the IIT(BHU), Varanasi and his research team have got their research paper detailing the development accepted for publication in the Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express journal.

Over centuries malaria has emerged a major scourge of the human race. According to the WHO, malaria is one of the most life threatening ailments in humans which causes annually about 212 million cases and 429,000 deaths.

P falciparum is the deadliest of the four parasite species that infect humans. Due to the widespread resistance to most of the available drugs, novel drug targets, new anti-malarial drugs or new delivery systems and vaccines are urgently required to control its spread and damage potential.

The Modus operandi

How does the UoH drug delivery system work? The Pradeep Paik group has chosen the drug delivery and formulation route to control the virulence of the parasite in the human body. They have developed a new formulation of porous, polymer capsules with the commonly used anti-malarial drugs that has shown good anti-malarial activity. The drug delivery system is equipped with a ‘time temperature clock’ module, where the doses for the treatment can be precisely tuned. He claimed that the new formulation is quite efficient in killing the P falciparum infection in RBCs (Red Blood Cells). It is ready for animal trials, he told BusinessLine .

The nano medicine is in the form of an injectable capsule. Inside the patient’s body, the capsule will release the drug when the temperature starts rising during malaria and stop when the temperature comes down.

The research team consisted of Himadri Medhi, Somedutta Maity, Niranjan Suthram and Suresh Kumar Chalapareddy of the UoH. The testing of the nano medicine on the parasite in laboratory conditions was done by noted malaria biologist Mrinal Kanti Bhattacharyya also of the University.

In the fight to overcome the malaria parasite not much headway has been made in terms of new drugs or a vaccine. A potential vaccine is on trial. While a few drugs have been developed, the parasite seems to render them ineffective over time. Many of the anti-malarial drugs face this problem, hence the significance of the new work.