Seasonal flu is an acute viral infection that spreads worldwide, causing about 3-5 million serious cases and very high numbers of deaths every year.
Although there is a remedy for this, the transport of a vaccine to a remote village in Africa, for example, is not easy: it can take place by land using mules, or by air by transporting doses by helicopter. In any case, the risks of cold chain interruptions are high, and the transportable weight is limited.
At Vaxxas, an Australian startup founded in 2011 by Mark Kendall, however, they claim to have developed an economically sustainable technology: Nanopatch, a 1×2 cm silicone patch equipped with micro-needles as thick as a hair, which “pierces” the surface layer of the skin absolutely painlessly to release the vaccine.
The microneedle patch is provided with an adhesive support of about one square centimeter, coated with 100 micro-needles in polymeric material. Once applied on the skin, within 10-15 minutes, the needles dissolve releasing the vaccine.
In June 2015, the clinical trial of influenza vaccine patches began with 100 participants, aged between 18 and 49 years.
Participants were divided into four groups:
1) vaccination with a patch applied by a healthcare professional;
2) vaccination with patch applied by participants;
3) vaccination with intramuscular injection;
4) placebo patch applied by a healthcare professional.
The antibody responses, which were also present after six months, proved to be similar between the groups vaccinated using the patches (regardless of who had applied them) and those vaccinated by an intramuscular injection.
No adverse events were reported, except for local skin reactions (mostly redness and mild itching).
Immunization with microneedle patches has the potential to overcome some factors that limit the administration of the flu shot in adults, such as needle phobia, time factor and access to the vaccine.
In addition, the patches are economically advantageous for several reasons:
• a low production cost;
• the elimination of costs associated with the disposal of cutting waste;
• eliminating the need of the cold chain.
• the decrease in storage, transport and disposal costs;
• the reduction of health management costs thanks to the possibility of self-administration by users.
For developing countries, it would be a good step forward, but even in our countries, an anti-flu patch to be collected in the pharmacy and applied at home could foster vaccination coverage never reached before, minimizing the consequences of annual epidemics of influence.
Author: Kiswarday Federico