An investigation of how fungal infection influences drug penetration through onychomycosis patient's nail plates

W. J. McAuley, S. A. Jones, M.J. Traynor, S. Guesné, S. Murdan, Marc Brown

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The treatment of onychomycosis remains problematic even though there are several potent antifungal agents available for patient use. The aim of this investigation was to understand if the structural modifications that arise when a patient's nail become infected plates influences the permeation of drugs into the nail following topical application. It was hoped that through improving understanding of the nail barrier in the diseased state, the development of more effective topical treatments for onychomycosis could be facilitated. The permeation of three compounds with differing hydrophobicities; caffeine, terbinafine and amorolfine, (clogD at pH 7.4 of -0.55, 3.72 and 4.49 respectively), was assessed across both healthy and onychomycosis infected, full thickness, human nail plate sections. Transonychial water loss (TOWL) measurements performed on the healthy and diseased nails supported previous observations that the nail behaves like a porous barrier given the lack of correlation between TOWL values with the thicker, diseased nails. The flux of the more hydrophilic caffeine was two-fold greater across diseased in comparison to the healthy nails, whilst the hydrophobic molecules terbinafine and amorolfine showed no statistically significant change in their nail penetration rates. Caffeine flux across the nail was found to correlate with the TOWL measurements, though no correlation existed for the more hydrophobic drugs. This data supported the notion that the nail pores, opened up by the infection, facilitated the passage of hydrophilic molecules, whilst the keratin binding of hydrophobic molecules meant that their transport through the nail plate was unchanged. Therefore, in order to exploit the structural changes induced by nail fungal infection it would be beneficial to develop a small molecular weight, hydrophilic antifungal agent, which exhibits low levels of keratin binding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-184
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics
Early online date8 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


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