Researchers at IIT Hyderabad develop oral solution to treat black fungus

An innovation reported two years ago by researchers at IIT-Hyderabad in the formulation of oral tablets used in the treatment of kala azar or black fever has come to the aid of patients with black fungi.

In 2019, researchers at IIT-H’s Creative and Advanced Research in Nanomaterials (CARBON) laboratory reported using gelatin nanofibers to make amphotericin B in sustained-release tablet form.

No pharmaceutical company in the country has advanced innovation in the past two years by conducting clinical trials, obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals and manufacturing tablets.

Amphotericin B has been a lifeline for thousands of patients around the world suffering from black fever or fungal infections, including the dreaded black fungus.

Read | Flare-up in black fungus cases leads to 300% increase in demand for antifungal drug Amphotericin

Kala Azar is caused by the parasite Leishmania donovani. Fever, an enlarged spleen and liver, weight loss, discoloration of the skin on the hands and feet (hence the name), and anemia are some of the symptoms. The disease is transmitted by sandflies. The spraying of insecticides to prevent the breeding of flies is one of the activities carried out under the national kala azar elimination program.

Amphotericin-B is currently manufactured as an injection by a few pharmaceutical companies, and its use in the treatment of black fungus costs lakhs of rupees – a 50 mg vial costs almost Rs 4000 and up to 60-100 vials are needed for a patient.

“Amphotericin B tablets are said to be significantly cheaper than injections, costing around Rs 200 per 60 mg tablet,” said Dr Chandra Shekhar Sharma, associate professor in the chemical engineering department at IIT-Hyderabad.

Dr Sharma added that the innovation had not yet been patented, which allowed it to remain open to the public and be used for good.

Manufacturing the drug in tablet form would also facilitate increased production to meet the high demand.

READ | Black fungus: Does India have a plan to tackle the growing threat?

WATCH | Black fungus: India scrambles for amphotericin B

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