Fighting the next pandemic with injection-free ‘vaccine patches’

microneedle patch
Image credit: Georgia Tech

When the next dead­ly pan­dem­ic flu hits, the first chal­lenge will be to de­vel­op a vac­cine. But loom­ing behind that ob­sta­cle is another: How to get an in­oc­u­la­tion to millions of people with­out in­ad­vert­ent­ly ex­ac­er­bat­ing the cri­sis.

Af­ter all, droves of people — some who might already be sick­ened — who flock to health centers for a shot could be a po­tent way for the in­fec­tion to spread.

A new study pro­vides proof of con­cept for a so­lu­tion that could up­end the tra­di­tion­al cen­tral­ized mod­el, in which health pro­fes­sion­als give in­jec­tions at clin­ics.

Re­search­ers cre­at­ed an H5N1 vac­cine, boost­ed by a spe­cial in­gre­di­ent that primes the body’s im­mune sys­tem to re­spond. Then, they ad­min­is­tered it through a microneedle that only pen­et­rates the up­per lay­er of the skin. They see this pro­to­type tech­nol­o­gy as a plat­form that could lead to novel vac­cine patch­es that can be dis­tri­but­ed rap­id­ly and ad­min­is­tered with­out a nurse. People would sim­ply have to stick a band­age-like strip, lined with micro­scop­ic nee­dles, onto their skin.

Related article:  We're better at fighting epidemics because of advances in genetic sequencing, synthetic biology and a willingness to collaborate

Because pub­lic health of­fi­cials seek­ing to pre­pare for a pan­dem­ic flu won’t know the ex­act strain in ad­vance and the vi­rus could change dur­ing an out­break, vac­cines that could be made more broad­ly ef­fec­tive with an ad­ju­vant are ex­cit­ing to re­search­ers.

Read full, original post: A prototype of how to fight the next pandemic: A vaccine without the shot

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