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A patch on the wrist could deliver flu vaccine instead of needle

First human trial of the ‘microneedle patch’ that ‘punctures skin painlessly’ can be self-administered.

Prof Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Tech holds a microneedle patch.
Prof Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Tech holds a microneedle patch.
Image: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech via The Lancet

A SIMPLE PATCH that is placed on the skin of the wrist for 20 minutes has been found to deliver a flu vaccine safely and effectively.

The success of the first human trial of the use of the ‘microneedle patch’ has given rise to hopes that its use could cut down on ‘sharps’ waste caused by disposable hypodermic needles and increase the uptake by the public in getting the flu vaccine.

The vaccine-infused patch, which is pressed onto the wrist until the microneedles dissolve painlessly into the skin, was self-administered by a test group and remains stable up to 40 degrees Celsius for one year, meaning it could be made available at pharmacies.

The trial, carried out in the US by Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, saw 100 test subjects who had not received the flu jab that year divided up into four groups. The Lancet reports that each of the groups received either a vaccine microneedle patch administered by a health professional; a vaccine injection administered by a health professional; a placebo microneedle patch administered by a health professional; or a self-applied vaccine microneedle patch.

microneedles A close-up of the microneedles on the patch - scientists say it punctures the skin painlessly. Source: The Lancet

The Lancet reports:

  • The vaccine injection was given in the arm, and the microneedle patch was applied for 20 minutes on the wrist. Participants who self-applied the patch were given instructions via a brief audiovisual presentation. The study was primarily designed to assess safety and acceptability, but also investigated immunogenicity.
  • At 6 months, no serious side effects linked to the vaccine were reported and there were no cases of influenza in any of the groups. Minor reactions to the vaccine were mild and transient.  Pain and tenderness were most commonly reported in the injection group, and redness, itching and tenderness in the vaccine microneedle patch groups.
  • Immediately after receiving the vaccine, participants reported high acceptability with scores of 4.5-4.8 (out of 5) in the three microneedle patch groups, similar to the injection group (4.4). At 28 days post vaccination, 70% (33/47) of participants who had received the microneedle patch vaccine said they preferred it to the injection.

The researchers also found that 28 days after the vaccination, those who had received the flu vaccine through the microneedle patch showed a “robust immune response” with antibody levels similar to those who received it by needle.

Commenting on the research, a spokesperson from the National Infections Service in the UK said that the results of this first trial were “promising” and that “exciting features of the microneedle patch are its low costs, safety and storage aspects”. These features, it was suggested, could potentially encourage a better uptake of the vaccine in vulnerable groups such as young children and for those in “poorly-resourced settings”.

Source: Georgia Tech/YouTube

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