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Scientists develop a more efficient and cost-effective strategy for battling fungal infections

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) –Madras have developed an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment strategy for fighting fungal infections, by linking anti-fungal drugs with sugar polymers in order to create gel-like formulations called hydrogels.

Fungal infections have always been difficult to treat, especially so in people with compromised immune systems. Amphotericin B, popularly called AmB, is one such anti-fungal drug which has been used to combat such infections for more than five decades now. However, since AmB doesn’t dissolve in water-based medium, its therapeutic use is solely dependent on the use of lipid-based carriers called liposomes, which help transport the drug inside the human cells. Given the fact that these AmB-containing liposomes are very expensive to produce, do not remain stable for long, and require continuous administrations to the patients, scientists have long been on the lookout for better alternatives to liposomes. 

One such alternative could be the use of alginates, which are naturally occurring polysaccharides or polymers made out of sugars. Now, alginates could be degradable or non-degradable by the body, depending on the molecular weight of the polysaccharide. Oxidized alginate polymers are degradable by the body, and can thus be used as a carrier for delivering various drugs in the body. Oxidized alginates are particularly useful as they can be used to cross-link other sugars and protein molecules with the desired drug, in order to form a gel-like substance. Such hydrogels, as they are popularly known, can ensure a much more controlled and sustained release of the drug inside the body, and are ideal for carrying anti-fungal drugs lie AmB which require prolonged release periods.

Scientists at IIT Madras have now studied the use of oxidized alginates as a potential cross linking agent for AmB, in order to prepare biodegradable anti-fungal hydrogel which can be used for diverse medical applications like wound dressing, tissue engineering and drug delivery applications. This is the first such study to examine the properties and suitability of oxidized alginates as a carrier for the anti-fungal compound, Amphotericin B.

The study found that hydrogel produced using AmB and sodium alginate served as a potent anti-fungal agent against various fungal infections, and had the potential for prolonged release of AmB when implanted. This hydrogel was also highly soluble in water, making it suitable for administration to patients, and also exhibited significantly reduced toxicity and other side effects as compared to traditional AmB formulations. This discovery could potentially lead to the development of more efficient, safe and cost-effective anti-fungal treatments in the future.