About the sector - EUON
Health - Infectious diseases - About The Sector
Infectious diseases, such as influenza, tuberculosis, measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and COVID-19, pose a major threat to the people’s health around the world. Treatment of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV are particularly challenging, as indicated by the ongoing transmission and high mortality associated with these diseases.1
Influenza is responsible for 3‑5 million severe cases worldwide annually, causing up to 650,000 deaths.2 In Europe, almost 11.5 thousand cases of measles were reported to the European Surveillance System by the 27 EU countries, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in the twelve months prior to the COVID‑19 outbreak. Measles is a highly infectious disease of the respiratory system, which can lead to severe complications, including encephalitis, diarrhoea, pneumonia, and blindness. The confinement measures following the COVID‑19 pandemic resulted in a sharp decrease in the reporting of measles cases. Hepatitis B is another infectious disease and is a liver infection caused by a virus transmitted by contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person. Infected people may develop a chronic infection, which can cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. About 24,500 hepatitis B cases were reported in EU countries, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in 2018.3
The formulation of new and existing drugs in nano-sized carriers promises to a solution to overcome several challenges associated with the treatment of infectious diseases, such as sub-therapeutic drug accumulation in microbial reservoirs and sanctuaries, low on-target bioavailability, and low patient adherence due to drug-related toxicities and extended therapeutic regimens. Nanocarriers can be used for developing and formulating vaccines, which represent a major tool in the fight against infectious diseases. Technologies such as injectable, oral, oral lipid, oral polymer and nebulised nanoparticles, as well as aerosolised micro-nanoparticles, injectable nanoliposomes and microemulsions have been used in preclinical and clinical trials for the treatment of infectious diseases.4
Nanotechnology has played a key role in the development of protective equipment, diagnostics, treatment and vaccines to prevent the disease and reduce the number of severe COVID-19 cases. The major advantage of using nanotechnology for the development of vaccines against the virus is the possibility to carry the nanosystems to a wide range of antigenic fractions, protecting the native structure of the antigen, and improving the delivery and presentation of antigens to presenting cells of the antigen.5
Although there are many promising therapeutic strategies for developing nanomedicines to treat and prevent infectious diseases, nanotechnology solutions will need to overcome several financial, manufacturing and regulatory challenges to have the maximum impact.6
1 Kirtane, A. R., Verma, M., Karandikar, P., Furin, J., Langer, R., & Traverso, G. (2021). Nanotechnology approaches for global infectious diseases. Nature Nanotechnology, 16(4), 369–384.
2 OECD (2021). Health at a glance: OECD indicators. Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/health-at-a-glance-2021_ae3016b9-en;jsessionid=fH1JnWWBHvubYdLph8RvdvxUIKuDcxvPDpE92GoT.ip-10-240-5-166
3 OECD & European Union (2020). Health at a glance: Europe 2020: State of health in the EU cycle. Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/health-at-a-glance-europe-2020_82129230-en
4 Kirtane, A. R., Verma, M., Karandikar, P., Furin, J., Langer, R., & Traverso, G. (2021). Nanotechnology approaches for global infectious diseases. Nature Nanotechnology, 16(4), 369-384.
5 Tavares, J. L., Cavalcanti, I. D. L., Santos Magalhães, N. S., & Lira Nogueira, M. C. D. B. (2022). Nanotechnology and COVID-19: quo vadis?. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 24(3), 1-22.
6 European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON). (n.d.b). Nanomaterials test guidelines, standards, and regulatory assessments. Available at: https://euon.echa.europa.eu/nanomaterials-test-guidelines-standards-and-regulatory-assessments