MRSA skin infections are often treated with an intravenous injection of antibiotics, which can cause significant side effects and promote the development of resistant bacterial strains. To solve these problems, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden are developing a micro-needle patch that delivers antibiotics directly to the affected skin area. New results published in Advanced materials technologies show that the microneedle patch effectively reduces MRSA bacteria in the skin.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) skin infections are potentially fatal, especially in patients with weakened immune systems. Vancomycin is one of the main treatments and is given by intravenous injection. The reason why the antibiotic is not given topically is because of its poor ability to penetrate the skin. It is also not administered orally due to poor absorption from the intestine. The problem with systemic administration is that it often causes significant side effects. In addition, even when relatively high doses are administered, the local concentration of vancomycin in the skin remains low, which may promote the development of antibiotic resistant strains. Thus, there is a clinical need for topical administration of vancomycin to the skin.
“We solved this problem by using micro-needle patches made from miniaturized needles made from a drug-loaded polymer,” says Jill Ziesmer, PhD student in the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet and first author of the study. “Thanks to an innovative design of micro-needles, we could effectively control the amounts of drugs delivered to the skin.”
The patch is placed on the skin at the site of the infection. The barely visible microneedles are so small that they do not reach pain receptors, making the treatment relatively painless. The ability of microneedles to penetrate the skin was studied in the skin tissue of piglets and in excised human skin. The results show that the drug was effectively delivered to the skin and, most importantly, significantly reduced the bacterial population of MRSA.
“If this drug delivery device reaches clinics, it has the ability to transform the way skin infections caused by life-threatening bacteria are treated with drastic improvements in the quality of life of patients,” says Georgios Sotiriou, principal investigator at the Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet and last author of the study.
The researchers will now evaluate the performance of the microneedles in animal models of MRSA skin infection. The next step is to further develop the product to exert antimicrobial activity through multiple modes of action to improve its effectiveness.
Microneedles were voted one of the top 10 emerging technologies by the World Economic Forum in 2020. They are already used clinically to deliver vaccines and many clinical trials are underway for other uses such as the treatment of diabetes, cancer. cancer and neuropathic pain.
“Microneedles for antibiotic administration have only recently been studied, however, the successful application of microneedles in other areas gives hope that antibiotic microneedles could open new frontiers. in the management of skin infections, ”says Georgios Sotiriou.
The research received funding from the European Research Council (ERC), NordForsk, faculty at the Karolinska Institutet, the Swedish Research Council, the Torsten Söderberg Foundation and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research.
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