Researchers in the US have developed a new ultra long-acting pill that can remain in the stomach for up to two weeks after being swallowed and aid in elimination of malaria.

The study found that the sustained therapeutic dose of a drug called ivermectin — used to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness — can also help keep malaria-carrying mosquitoes at bay.

In large animal models, the capsule safely stayed in the stomach, slowly releasing the drug for up to 14 days, and potentially providing a new way to combat malaria and other infectious diseases.

This type of drug delivery could replace inconvenient regimens that require repeated doses.

“Until now, oral drugs would almost never last for more than a day. The study opens the door to ultra-long-lasting oral systems, which could have an effect on all kinds of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or mental health disorders,” said Robert Langer, Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US.

The drug, designed by scientists at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is a star-shaped structure with six arms that can be folded inward and encased in a smooth capsule.

After the capsule is swallowed, acid in the stomach dissolves the outer layer of the capsule, allowing the six arms to unfold and stay in the stomach. Once the drug is released, the capsule could break down and pass safely through the digestive tract.

This is a platform into which you can incorporate any drug and can be used with any drug that requires frequent dosing. We can replace that dosing with a single administration, the researchers said.