A tiny, self-contained device could make antibiotics safer and more effective. In a sense, it can be thought of as a small submarine that floats in the human stomach under the influence of its acid.
Oral antibiotics are a common and very important medicine. However, when they enter the stomach, they are exposed to digestive acid, which can break down the chemical bonds within the drug. To avoid this, doctors often prescribe antibiotics along with drugs that reduce acid secretion - although these have their own side effects.
But now this problem has a promising new solution. Scientists at the University of California have developed a microscopic device that can simultaneously deliver drugs and lower stomach acid levels without side effects.
The device enters the stomach and reacts with its acid, releasing tiny bubbles of hydrogen. The vesicles disperse through the stomach, and the magnesium contained in them reduces the acidity of its internal environment. The device itself is coated with a special sensitive polymer. Once the acid is neutralized, the polymer dissolves and the micro-submarine releases its antibiotic charge.
The submarine itself is about 20 microns in size - five times thinner than a human hair. The device is not yet ready for use in humans, but trials in mice have already shown it to be effective and safe. Materials dedicated to its creation were published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.