Medical researchers have developed a new painless, easy-to-use “microneedle” patch that can deliver the measles vaccine as effectively as a hypodermic syringe.
The new ouch-less technique, reported in the journal Vaccine by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia Institute of Technology, could provide a new tool for immunization programs against measles, which kills nearly 140,000 children worldwide each year.
"We showed in this study that measles vaccine delivered using a microneedle patch produced an immune response that is indistinguishable from the response produced when the vaccine is delivered subcutaneously," said Chris Edens, a graduate student at Georgia Tech and Emory University.
For the study, the researchers developed a technique to dry and stabilize the measles vaccine — which uses a live attenuated virus — and showed that was effective for at least 30 days after being placed onto the microneedles and was quickly released in the skin.
Because current measles vaccine programs require a hypodermic needle injection, they must be carried out by trained medical personnel. Using microneedle patches could simplify such programs because they can be administered by people with less medical training.
"A major advantage would be the ease of delivery," said Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and one of the inventors of the microneedle patch. "Microneedles would allow us to move away from central locations staffed by health care personnel to the use of minimally-trained personnel who would go out to homes to administer the vaccine."
Microneedles are also being studied for use against influenza, polio, rotavirus, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B.