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Microneedle Patch for Measles Vaccination

New development could be a game changer

A new microneedle patch being developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could make it easier to vaccinate people against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, according to a recent report.

The microneedle patch is designed to be administered by minimally trained workers and to simplify storage, distribution, and disposal compared with conventional vaccines.

The microneedle patch under development is approximately a square centimeter in size and is administered with the press of a thumb. The underside of the patch is lined with 100 solid, conical microneedles made of polymer, sugar, and vaccine that are a fraction of a millimeter long. When the patch is applied, the microneedles press into the upper layers of the skin; they dissolve within a few minutes, releasing the vaccine. The patch can then be discarded.

“Each day, 400 children are killed by measles complications worldwide. With no needles, syringes, sterile water, or sharps disposals needed, the microneedle patch offers great hope of a new tool to reach the world’s children faster, even in the most remote areas,” said James Goodson, PhD, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Global Immunization Division. “This advancement would be a major boost in our efforts to eliminate this disease, with more vaccines administered and more lives saved at less cost.”

Getting the measles vaccine to remote areas is expected to be easier because the patch is more stable at varying temperatures than the currently available vaccines and takes up less space than the standard vaccine. Because microneedles dissolve in the skin, there is no disposal of needles, reducing the risk of accidental needle sticks. The measles patch is expected to be manufactured at a cost comparable with that of the currently available needle-and-syringe vaccine.

Twenty million people are affected by measles each year. Unfortunately, global coverage with the measles vaccine has been stagnant for the last few years at around 85%, which is well below the coverage of up to 95% that is needed to interrupt transmission of the disease, the CDC says.

Because measles is vaccine-preventable and the measles virus survives only in human hosts, the world’s health officials are aiming for measles elimination. Having a simple patch administered by minimally trained vaccinators could help increase vaccination coverage and achieve the goal of measles elimination, according to the agency.

Georgia Tech and the CDC’s Global Immunization Division and Division of Viral Diseases recently completed a study that showed the new microneedle patch produces a strong immune response in rhesus macaques. No adverse effects or health issues were noted during the study. These findings have cleared the way for developing proposals for human clinical trials, which could begin as early as 2017.

The CDC is also collaborating with Georgia Tech to see whether microneedles could be used to administer inactivated polio vaccine.

Source: CDC; April 27, 2015.

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