Monday, 20 November, 2017

A Flu Shot Without the Needle

Microneedle patches for flu vaccination prove successful in first human clinical trial The simple patch which may replace painful flu vaccinations forever
Sammy Stanley | 29 June, 2017, 02:54

And yet the proportion of American adults who get a flu shot tends to hover around 40%. Some participants developed local skin reactions to the patches, described as faint redness and mild itching that lasted two to three days.

Flu patch has tiny needles.

"The flu microneedle patch is easy to use - it can be self-administered and, like other medication patches, it is well absorbed through the skin", said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. The World Health Organization estimates about 250,000 to 500,000 people a year die from the flu.

"A product like this would boost not only flu vaccinations but it (could) apply to other diseases - could be a real boom", he said.

The microneedle patches used in the study were designed at Georgia Tech and manufactured by the Global Centre for Medical Innovation in Atlanta.

The patch also could reduce the need for bins to dispose of syringes and for a cold chain to store vaccines, she said.

Also unlike the standard flu jab, it does not need to be refrigerated, so pharmacies can stock it on the shelves for purchase.

The research team vaccinated the participants in non-placebo groups using an inactivated influenza vaccine that was invented for the flu season in 2014-15. "We do have a lot of people who are typically scared of needles and they were more prone or more excited as being part of this clinical trial so they could try the microneedle instead". In a trial of 100 people published Tuesday, researchers found the patch to be safe in humans and that it could generate an antibody response, which is key for fighting off the flu virus.

The microneedle array. When pressed into the skin, the tiny needles dissolve, carrying flu vaccine into the skin.

Overall, 70% of the volunteers who got vaccine patches said they'd rather use them again than get a traditional flu shot or an intranasal vaccine.

"The patch could also be safely applied by participants themselves, meaning we could envisage vaccination at home, in the work place, or even via mail distribution".

"There is a big minority of people who won't have vaccinations in general because of needles", he said, adding that the patch design could be applied to other forms of vaccinations.

Over seven in ten who received the patch said they preferred to over a jab or nasal spray.

Professor Prausnitz has been working for many years to develop the microneedle patch technology and said: "It's very gratifying and exciting to have these patches tested in a clinical trial, and with a result that turned out so well".

Like a small plaster, the patch can be put on by anyone, was painless, and does not involve the inconvenience of queuing up at the GP to see a nurse to get the vaccine by syringe.

Linda Klavinskis, an immunobiologist at King's College London, said the research was a step forward but challenges still remain, including how to elicit a stronger immune response from elderly patients and how to increase the potency of the vaccine used - an important consideration in the case of a pandemic, when supplies are stretched. Packaging for transportation is easy; refrigeration is not required, and the patches are stable.

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