Needle-free jab to beat injection phobia

Scientists have developed a skin
patch to administer vaccines without the need for a jab. Researchers say it
could pave the way for ‘mail-order’ inoculations, scientists have said.

Instead of one large needle, hundreds
of microscopic needles set into a patch dissolve into the skin painlessly.

The new system could allow
non-medically trained people or even patients themselves to administer
vaccines, particularly in the Third World.

The details were released in the
journal Nature Medicine.

Studies on mice have shown that the
micro-needles can deliver vaccine that it as effective as conventional methods.

Researchers from Emory University
and the Georgia Institute of Technology, in America, are believed to be the
first to evaluate whether vaccines delivered using these micro-needle systems
are as effective as ordinary ones.

Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the
Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said: “In this
study, we have shown that a dissolving micro-needle patch can vaccinate against
influenza at least as well, and probably better than, a traditional hypodermic

“The dissolving micro-needle patch
could open up many new doors for immunisation programmes by eliminating the
need for trained personnel to carry out the vaccination.

“This approach could make a
significant impact because it could enable self-administration as well as
simplify vaccination programmes in schools and assisted living facilities.”

Several other needleless methods
have been developed to administer drugs, including gels, skin patches, tabs
that dissolve under the tongue and powder jets that force medicine through the
skin under pressure.

The skin is a particularly route of
administration, the team from Emory University School of Medicine said, because
it contains lots of cells that are needed to mount an immune response.

Richard Compans, professor of
microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine, said: “The
skin is a particularly attractive site for immunisation because it contains an
abundance of the types of cells that are important in generating immune
responses to vaccines.”

The researchers used mice to test
the micro needle patch, giving one group a flu vaccine with the new patch and
another group the same vaccine using a traditional needle injected into muscle.

Three months later both groups were
exposed to the flu virus and the mice which had been vaccinated using the patch
appeared to have better protection.

Sean Sullivan, the study’s lead
author from Georgia Tech, said: “We envision people getting the patch in the
mail or at a pharmacy and then self administering it at home.

“Because the micro-needles on the
patch dissolve away into the skin, there would be no dangerous sharp needles
left over.”

The patch costs around the same to
produce as conventional needle and syringe systems but could save money in
large-scale immunisation programmes due to the reduced staffing needed to
administer it.