Researchers at King’s College London have developed an injection-free technique that can deliver dried live vaccines into the skin without the need for a traditional hypodermic needle.
The vaccine is administered through small rows of microneedles made of sucrose which penetrate the skin and dissolve quickly — enabling specialized immune cells in the skin to kick-start potent immunizing properties of the vaccine.
This important technical advancement stabilizes a live viral vaccine at room temperature rather than requiring refrigeration — which can be a considerable challenge in developing countries where transporting and storing live vaccines in a continuously cold environment would not be possible.
An injection-free vaccine also offers a cheaper alternative to hypodermic needles and removes any safety risks from needle contamination along with the added benefit of pain-free administration.
Dr Linda Klavinskis from the Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology at King’s College London, is excited by the possibility of delivering live vaccines in a global context, without the need for any refrigeration.
“This new technique represents a huge leap forward in overcoming the challenges of delivering a vaccination program for diseases such as HIV and malaria,” Dr Klavinskis said in a news release.
“But these findings may also have wider implications for other infectious disease vaccination programs, for example infant vaccinations, or even other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as diabetes.”
Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine scientist have taken a significant step towards finding a cure for African sleeping sickness, or trypanosomiasis.
This disease, prominent in Sub-Saharan Africa, is caused by a parasite transmitted by the Tsetse fly. According to The Guardian, nearly 50,000 people died of trypanosomiasis in 2008 alone. They’ve been trying to control the Tsetse for more than 100 years, but nothing has worked on a large-scale basis.
A team of scientists from Yale and Rockefeller university for the first time isolated the process of the parasite becoming infectious in a laboratory without the “tse-tse” factor.
“Serendipity happens in science,” says lead researcher, Christian Tschudi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, who confesses that he didn’t believe the result the first time it happened. “This completely unexpected and unbelievable outcome made us realize that we now have a handle on a stage of the parasite life cycle that has been referred to as the ‘heart of darkness.’ If we figure out how the parasite becomes infectious, we might be able to intervene with this crucial step of its life cycle.”
Since current methods of treatment are either toxic (Melarsoprol, an arsenic derivative which has a fatality rate of 5% and is painful) or difficult to administer (Eflornithine which needs to be given every 2 hours for 14 days) this is a welcome development.
“The accomplishment, which researchers hail as a breakthrough, could lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which the pathogen acquires infectivity and might eventually result in studies that block the transmission of the disease” wrote Denise L. Meyer for Yale’s health blog.