New Drug Delivery Method Could Replace Injections With Pills


The findings provide an alternative delivery strategy for peptide-based drugs and suggest that such techniques and principles could be applied to a broader range of drugs.

Researchers may have developed a new way of delivering medications that does not require injections, according to findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Treatment for many chronic conditions requires lifelong injections, which can be challenging. Fear of needles, injection-associated infection, and pain are responsible for skipped doses, and these concerns have led to work developing new delivery strategies. The goal of such strategies is to combine efficacy with limited adverse effects, according to the study.

“People don’t like to have injections for the rest of their lives,” said co-corresponding author Christine Beeton, PhD, a professor of integrative physiology at Baylor University, in a press release. “In the current work, we explored the possibility of using the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri as a novel oral drug delivery platform to treat rheumatoid arthritis in an animal model.”

Earlier work found that a peptide derived from sea anemone toxin effectively and safely reduces disease severity in rat models of rheumatoid arthritis and patients with plaque psoriasis. However, Beeton noted that peptide treatment required repeated injections, reducing patient compliance, and direct oral delivery of the peptide has low efficacy.

Beeton and her colleagues chose L. reuteri because these bacteria are indigenous to human and other animal guts. It is one of the lactic acid bacteria groups that has long been used as a cell factory in the food industry and is recognized as safe by the FDA. L. reuteri has an excellent safety profile in infants, children, adults, and in immunosuppressed individuals, according to the investigators.

“The results are encouraging,” Beeton said in the press release. “Daily delivery of these peptide-secreting bacteria, called LrS235, dramatically reduced clinical signs of disease, including joint inflammation, cartilage destruction, and bone damage in an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis.”

The investigators followed bacteria LrS235 and the peptide ShK-235, which secretes inside the animal model. They found that after feeding rates live LrS235 that release ShK-235, they could detect ShK-235 in the blood circulation.

“Another reason we chose L. reuteri is that these bacteria do not remain in the gut permanently,” Beeton said in the press release. “They are removed as the gut regularly renews its inner surface layer to which the bacteria attach. This opens the possibility for regulating treatment administration.”

More research is necessary to bring this novel drug delivery system into the clinic, but the researchers believe it could make treatment easier for patients in the future. The findings provide an alternative delivery strategy for peptide-based drugs and suggest that such techniques and principles could be applied to a broader range of drugs and the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases.

“These bacteria could be stored in capsules that can be kept on the kitchen counter,” Beeton said in the press release. “A patient could take the capsules when on vacation without the need of refrigeration of carrying needles and continue treatment without the inconvenience of daily injections.”


A promising drug delivery method could replace injections with pills. News release. Baylor College of Medicine; January 4, 2023. Accessed January 10, 2023.

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