Amphibian foam has been used in drug delivery for the first time, in research which could help to combat the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.  As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

Researchers from the University of Strathclyde, Queen’s University Belfast, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Glasgow discovered that the foam, found in frogs’ nests, has the potential to offer benefits to topical, vaginal and rectal drug delivery, and in cases such as the treatment of burns.

It provides a controlled-release delivery, which minimises risk of infection and antimicrobial resistance, while being very compatible with skin and tissue.

Industrial foams have long been used for the delivery of cosmetics and medications but there is high variability in the foamability and long-term stability of synthetic foams.

The research has been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Professor Paul Hoskisson, of the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, who led the study said: “This is the first time an amphibian foam has been used for drug delivery. It should give us a nice, safe delivery vehicle that could be administered to patients without any fear of making them sick, unlike many of the other synthetic delivery vehicles. 

“We are now looking at reproducing the exact foam in the laboratory and investigating the types of drugs that lend themselves better to this type of drug delivery.”

The researchers collected foam from wild Túngara frogs, which is made by this species to protect its eggs and tadpoles from the elements in its native Trinidad, including extreme temperatures and harmful bacteria.

As the foam offered protection in these extreme conditions, the researchers hypothesised that it could offer a more durable and compatible system for drug delivery and carried out laboratory tests to assess its structure and composition. The researchers also made nanoparticles to deliver drugs through the foam and found that the foam released the compounds slowly while the structure held together.