Vaccine-delivery patch shows improved immunity to influenza

A vaccine that is applied through your skin might boost protection against the flu virus. Vaccines administered this way could let people self-administer vaccines during pandemics and improve the effectiveness of vaccine programs in developing countries.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

As soon as the microneedles are pressed into the skin, they would dissolve into your bodily fluids. No sharp ends would remain. Just 650 microns long, the 100 needles that make up this new vaccine-delivery patch system could fundamentally change how vaccines are administered.

The vaccine can be easily administered by untrained professionals (like you!) and eliminates the need for oh-so-painful hypodermic needle jab.

"In this study, we have shown that a dissolving microneedle patch can vaccinate against influenza at least as well, and probably better than, a traditional hypodermic needle," Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering said in a statement.

Not only does this form of vaccine delivery appear to be less painful and easier to administer, it appears to boost protection.

Clinical trials will have to be done before these vaccines make it into the marketplace. So far, the improved immunity to influenza has only been observed in mouse models.

Originally, three groups of mice were examined. However, only two of those groups received vaccinations. One group got the vaccine through microneedle applied to their skin, while the other group got vaccinated the regular way through hypodermic needles.

A month later, the researchers infected all groups with the influenza virus. Not surprisingly, the control group died, while the two groups that were vaccinated survived.

Then, after a couple of months, the researchers exposed the mice to another flu virus. The group that received the vaccination through the microneedles showed more impressive protection against the virus.

Microneedles could could eliminate the practice of reusing needles, which leads to the spread of diseases such as HIV.

The cost of the vaccination methods are comparable. From a practical standpoint, the microneedle delivery system is more stable. The new microneedle vaccine is made of dry formulation, making it easier to store and transport.

"We envision people getting the patch in the mail or at a pharmacy and then self administering it at home," Georgia Tech's Sean Sullivan said in a statement. "Because the microneedles on the patch dissolve away into the skin, there would be no dangerous sharp needles left over."

In the event of a pandemic, people could administer the vaccine by themselves.

Credit: Jeong-Woo Lee

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