If you’ve been avoiding your annual flu shot because you hate needles, this invention could make vaccination painless.
Developers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a microneedle patch that allows the vaccine to penetrate the surface of the skin. Conversely, traditional flu injections go all the way through to the muscle.
“If you zoom in under the microscope, what you’ll see are microscopically small needles,” says lead researcher Prof. Mark Prausnitz. “They puncture painlessly into the skin.”
One hundred volunteers were used to complete this study. Some participants were given the standard needle flu shot, while others were given the patch by an unmasked health-care worker. Additionally, some others applied the patch themselves. The patch was left on the skin for 20 minutes, and most participants said the patch was painless. Some reported mild side effects including redness, itching and tenderness at the application site.
According to BBC.com, participants who were given the patch preferred it to the shot.
The patch is a few centimeters wide, and unlike traditional flu immunizations, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated. According to Dr. Nadine Rouphael, from Emory University, this means the patch can be stored on shelves and sold directly to the consumer.
“We could envisage vaccination at home, in the workplace or even via mail distribution,” Rouphael said.
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Unlike typical needles, the microneedles dissolve after use, so the patch can be safely disposed in a regular trash bin. The nature of the patch could also make it extremely useful in the developing world.
John Edmunds, professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, it excited about this breakthrough, according to BBC.com.
“This study is undoubtedly an important step toward a better way to deliver future vaccines,” says Edmunds.