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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2013 Feb;68(2):257-74. doi: 10.1093/jac/dks379. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

The enhanced permeability retention effect: a new paradigm for drug targeting in infection.

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School of Dentistry, Cardiff University, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XY, Wales, UK.


Multidrug-resistant, Gram-negative infection is a major global determinant of morbidity, mortality and cost of care. The advent of nanomedicine has enabled tailored engineering of macromolecular constructs, permitting increasingly selective targeting, alteration of volume of distribution and activity/toxicity. Macromolecules tend to passively and preferentially accumulate at sites of enhanced vascular permeability and are then retained. This enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect, whilst recognized as a major breakthrough in anti-tumoral targeting, has not yet been fully exploited in infection. Shared pathophysiological pathways in both cancer and infection are evident and a number of novel nanomedicines have shown promise in selective, passive, size-mediated targeting to infection. This review describes the similarities and parallels in pathophysiological pathways at molecular, cellular and circulatory levels between inflammation/infection and cancer therapy, where use of this principle has been established.

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