These Painless Microneedle Patches Could Deliver Your Next Flu Shot
No one likes getting an injection at the doctor's, but soon the cringe of the syringe will be over. Researchers are working on a way to inject the flu vaccine via a sticker patch with microneedles you simply stick to your skin. The scientists at Georgia Tech and Emory University have had brilliant results from their recent clinical trials.
[Image Source: Georgia Tech]
The sticker is equipped with hundreds of tiny hair-like microneedles. Lead researcher Mark Parausnitz explained, “If you zoom in under the microscope what you’ll see are microscopically small needles. They puncture painlessly into the skin.”
[Image Source: Georgia Tech]
Regular injections put the vaccine into the muscle, these microneedles only puncture the upper layers of the skin before the vaccine is dissolved.
Researchers just completed a small trial and published the results in The Lancet. The trial included 100 volunteers applying the patch, it was reported the sticker was much less painful than a regular injection.
Some mild side effects were reported by some people on the trial, these included redness and irritation, but the symptoms quickly dissipated and had no long term effects. Most excitingly, the trial confirmed that the stickers do provide full immunization to the user against the flu.
The sticker, apart from being a more comfortable way to give injections, has huge implications for vaccinations in remote areas.
The stickers could be widely distributed and with minimal training, vaccinations can occur en masse. While the product is still several years away from being commercially available medical experts are excited by the possibility of self-care.
“With the microneedle patch, you could pick it up at the store and take it home, put it on your skin for a few minutes, peel it off and dispose of it safely, because the microneedles have dissolved away,” Prausnitz said in a press release.
The flu vaccine is offered for free as part of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK to all adults over the age of 18 who are at risk of contracting the flu, including everyone aged 65 and over, pregnant women and children aged six months to two years. Although the service exists many find it difficult to access the vaccine due poor education or lack of mobility. This means many elderly or at risk people still contract the flu with sometimes deadly results. If the trials continue with good results, other vaccines may also be investigated using the patch system.
Last year India switched its national polio vaccine from an oral medicine to an injectable one to reduce the risk of vaccine-derived polio that had been reported in some parts fo the country. There is now a confirmed shortage of the required vaccine across the whole country with pharma companies unable to supply the required amounts of medicine. If the patch system could also be used to host the polio vaccine it opens up the possibility of faster and more far-reaching vaccination in a country where many have limited access to healthcare.