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Report: New Nano Coating Could Preserve Vaccines, Save Lives

Researchers look at silica (July 19)

The delivery and storage of vaccines poses a major challenge for public health officials in remote locations and the developing world. Most vaccines are stable below or around room temperature, but they degrade over time if not refrigerated.

This challenge often leads to wastage and leaves vulnerable patients without the life-saving treatments they need, say researchers at the University of Bath in the UK. Estimates suggest that more than 1.5 million children under 5 years of age die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases, including rotavirus, measles, tetanus, meningococcal disease, and whooping cough. Costs for the transportation and storage of vaccines are also high; recent reports suggest these can run as high as $200 million a year.

The scientists at the University of Bath are working on developing a “nano-coating” that would protect a vaccine from its environment both in transit and for storage. The researchers hope to show how nano-silica can be grown around individual vaccine molecules, enabling a vaccine to be taken anywhere in the world without refrigeration.

This technique would produce a lightweight, easy-to-transport, solid material packed with vaccine. Once doctors were ready to administer the vaccine substance, the protective coating could be broken using either chemical or physical methods, such as acid or microwaves.

Silica expert Dr. Asel Sartbaeva said: “Once we can show that silica is the right material for vaccine preservation and storage, it will help save millions of lives, and I am hopeful it will help us eradicate many vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Source: University of Bath; July 19, 2013.

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