On target for getting TB medicines into patient’s lungs

Lead Researcher: Associate Professor Sally-Ann Cryan, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

HRB-funded research has packaged medicines for TB into inhalable formats to make them more effective and easier for patients to take.
In Summary

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a major public health issue in many parts of the world, and forms are emerging that resist current treatments. A team of researchers funded by the HRB have developed new, inhalable versions of medicines to treat TB, to make it easier for patients to take them and to make them more efficient by delivering them to the site of infection in the lungs. They are also the first to have developed an inhalable particle form of the immune boosting molecule vitamin A for treatment of TB.

The Problem

At the moment, treatments for TB last for months and it is difficult for patients to stick to taking the required pills every day. This means the medicines may not work effectively and the bacteria can also become resistant to the current treatments.

The Project

HRB‑funded researchers have developed new ways to ‘package’ various medicines so they can be breathed into the lungs through an inhaler.The work was carried out by pharmacist and doctoral student, Gemma O’Connor, and is led by Associate Professor Sally‑Ann Cryan at RCSI, along with colleagues Professor Joe Keane and Dr. Mary O’Sullivan in St James’s Hospital, colleagues in Imperial College London and collaborators in Irish companies including Dr Ronan MacLoughlin in Aerogen and Dr Gillian Hendy in Spraybase.

The Outcomes

The project rendered a number of existing TB medicines into an advanced inhalable format.

The researchers also managed for the first time to package immune‑boosting vitamin A into an inhalable format that was effective against TB in lab tests.

Importantly, the researchers discovered how to make large batches of these inhalable versions of the medicines.

Lab tests of the inhalable medicines showed that they were highly effective against TB bacteria in the lungs.

Aerogen were closely involved in the work and the team will go on to work together on more advanced studies in preparation for human trials of the inhaled medicines to tackle TB.

Professor Sally‑Ann Cryan, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Science at RCSI, says:

'Existing TB treatments are onerous and the emergence of multi‑drug resistance TB is a huge public health problem in some parts of the world. In this project, we thought about it from both the patient and the scientific perspective. We wanted to develop inhaled modes of delivery for TB treatment that are easier to use and more effective. I’m very excited about what the team has achieved, and it will hopefully mean more effective treatments against TB in the future'.