Biomaterials. 2021 Apr 22;273:120848. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120848. Online ahead of print.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains a leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, and limiting the spread of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is now an urgent global health priority. Essential to the persistence of this disease is the ability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) to circumvent host defenses by infecting lung macrophages to create a cellular niche for its survival and proliferation. This has urged the development of new therapeutic strategies that act through mechanisms distinct from conventional antibiotics, and thus are effective against MDR bacteria, while being able to efficiently kill persister Mtb cells in infected host macrophages. Here, we report a new class of gel-like microparticle aerosols, or 'aerogels', designed to exploit metabolic vulnerabilities of Mtb pathogens and TB-infected macrophages to enable preferential delivery of synergistic peptide-antibiotic combinations for potent and rapid antitubercular therapy. This is achieved by formulating aerogels through the supramolecular assembly of a de novo designed anti-TB peptide and the extracellular matrix (ECM)-derived polysaccharide, hyaluronic acid (HA). Importantly, HA serves as a nutrient source for Mtb cells during tissue invasion and proliferation, and is recognized by CD44 receptors highly expressed on lung macrophages during TB infection. By exploiting this metabolic substrate for pathogen targeting, HA aerogels are shown to avidly bind and kill both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant mycobacteria, while being efficiently internalized into macrophage host cells in vitro and in vivo to clear Mtb persisters. This multifaceted bioactivity suggests aerogels may serve as a versatile inhalable platform upon which novel biomaterials-enabled therapeutics can be developed to rapidly clear pulmonary MDR-TB.