Injection-free vaccines? An avenue worth exploring…

The day when we no longer need to inject vaccines may not be that far away. Immunisation could in fact be as easy as putting on a Band-Aid! An American company is currently conducting studies on their vaccines administered through a transdermal or skin patch.

The day when we no longer need to inject vaccines may not be that far away. Immunisation could in fact be as easy as putting on a Band-Aid! An American company is currently conducting studies on their vaccines administered through a transdermal or skin patch.

If this type of vaccine is patented one day, it could be the postman, not the nurse, who delivers the vaccine directly to your home! The only thing left for you to do is stick it to your arm for a predetermined amount of time.

Today’s vaccines are injected intramuscularly (in a muscle), but physicians and scientists know that it could be possible to administer most vaccines subcutaneously (under the skin) without diminishing their efficacy. The approach proposed by this American company is new, but in no way reinvents the wheel! In fact, the skin is a natural barrier that protects us against the micro-organisms that surround us. If it is wounded or irritated, it becomes a perfect doorway for bacteria, viruses and other microbes. Scientists based themselves on this natural phenomenon. The vaccine is contained in a layer of the patch that we can simply apply to the skin. When the skin is scratched before the patch is applied, the vaccine directly penetrates the living skin layer. It is in this layer that specialised cells called Langerhans cells reside. Recognising the pathogen, these cells alert the immune system so it can prepare against an impending infection.

The company is currently testing two viruses in approximately 570 subjects, one against influenza (the flu) and the other against travellers’ diarrhea. The goal is to ascertain that the transdermal patch-administered vaccine is safe and allows the production of enough antibodies to ultimately fight infection.

But of course, only the future will tell if this is a good means of vaccinating people against myriad diseases. Additional studies still need to be conducted before such a product can actually be commercialised, but this is definitely an avenue worth exploring! This technology could particularly be beneficial in developing countries where refrigeration and clean needles often pose serious risks.

Imagine a day when we might get injection-free vaccines! That will surely make everyone happy!

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