Nanomedicine: A New approach that could assist towards HIV/AIDS eradication


by Dr Steven Mufamadi

South Africa has more than 6.4 million people that are currently living with HIV/AIDS and more than 3 million people on antiretrovirals (ARVs). Despite the establishment of the highest HIV/AIDS treatment programme in the world, more than 450 000 new HIV infections are reported each year in this country.

nanomedicineIn his opening of the seventh SA Aids Conference 2015, the Deputy President of South Africa, the honourable Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, stated that people must renew their commitment towards fighting against HIV/AIDS. He also add that we need to renew our commitment to the achievement of a generation of under- 20s that is largely free of HIV by 2030

Regardless of the South African government’s remarkable success in disease management, the use of potent active antiretroviral therapies is limited by their severe adverse effects, low bioavailability and inability to eradicate HIV from its reservoirs.

Nanotechnology in medicine (Nanomedicine) is an emerging field of science that promises to revolutionise medicine in the 21st century, as it has the potential to radically advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.

Nanomedicine in HIV prevention: Topical nanomicrobicides are a promising preventive approach towards controlling the risk of sexual transmission of HIV. They can be formulated as gels, creams, film and suppositories, and fabricated by nanoparticles loaded with antiretroviral therapies for the prevention of vaginal and rectal HIV transmission. Gold and silver nanoparticles are also among nanotechnology‐based preventive systems that are capable to provide protection against HIV transmission and other sexually transmitted pathogens.

Nanomedicine in HIV diagnostics: Nanotechnology-based assays have the capability to facilitate rapid diagnosis testing and early detection of the HIV infection. During the window period of early HIV infection or the clinically latent stage, it is very difficult to detect the HIV antibody or biomarker proteins in a patient’s blood, because they have an undetectable viral load and/or because the virus hidden in metabolically inert cells. The advantages of using nano-assays for HIV diagnosis are that they capable of enhancing sensitivity and fast diagnoses of the HIV biomarkers in a just finger prick of blood.

Nanomedicine in HIV treatment: Nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems have ability to cross blood testes barriers such as the blood brain barriers (BBB) in the brain, blood cerebrospinal fluid barrier and blood-retina barrier (BRB) in the eye. In addition, it has a potential to deliver potent active antiretroviral therapies into anatomical sites and cellular reservoirs such as Dendritic, CD4+ T cells and monocytes/macrophages that are known protect or help the HIV virus escape from effect of potent active antiretroviral therapy. Furthermore, they could prolong the drug retention time in blood circulation and/or reduce the toxicity associated with antiretroviral drugs.

If South Africa wants to win its battle against this disease or to achieve its target of HIV/AIDS eradication by 2030, then this country needs to start considering other strategies that could assist towards HIV/AIDS eradication such as a Nanomedicine.