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An NIH study examined a dissolving microneedle technology as a way to deliver the influenza vaccine to patients.
A new National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study published on June 27, 2017 in The Lancet has shown that an influenza vaccine can produce an immune response and be administered safely using an experimental patch of dissolving microneedles. The method is an alternative to needle-and-syringe immunization; with further development, it could eliminate the discomfort of an injection as well as the inconvenience and expense of visiting a flu clinic, NIH said in a press release.
“This bandage-strip sized patch of painless and dissolvable needles can transform how we get vaccinated,” said Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), which funded the study. “A particularly attractive feature is that this vaccination patch could be delivered in the mail and self-administered. In addition, this technology holds promise for delivering other vaccines in the future.”
The vaccine patch consists of 100 solid, water-soluble needles that are just long enough to penetrate the skin. Adhesive helps the patch grip the skin during the administration of the vaccine, which is encapsulated in the needles and is released as the needle tips dissolve, within minutes. The patch is then peeled away and discarded.
The results of the study, which enrolled 100 adult patients, showed that antibody responses generated by the vaccine, as measured through analysis of blood samples, were similar in the groups vaccinated using patches and those receiving intramuscular injection, and these immune responses were still present after six months. More than 70% of patch recipients reported they would prefer patch vaccination over injection or intranasal vaccination for future vaccinations. The researchers also found that vaccination with a microneedle was safe, with no serious related adverse events reported.
The prospective vaccine technology could offer economic and manufacturing advantages, NIH wrote in a statement. The manufacturing cost for the patch is expected to be competitive with prefilled syringe costs. The patch, however, can dramatically reduce the cost of vaccination, since self-administration can eliminate the need to have health workers oversee the process. It can be easily packaged for transportation, requires no refrigeration, and is stable.