Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Skin Patch to Deliver the Flu Vaccine - An Update

Remember the skin patch (this blog, Mar 13, 2014) that was being developed to deliver vaccines without an injection? Back then, the patch had only been tested to see how well the dissolvable microneedles of the patch would be tolerated by patients. Last week the same researchers reported that it has now been tested with the flu vaccine.

In the latest study, healthy volunteers received the flu vaccine either by skin patch or by the usual syringe and needle, both administered by a health care worker. An additional group of volunteers were instructed to administer the skin patches themselves, to determine if self-administration was as effective as administration by a health care worker. The results were encouraging. Increases in antibody titers (a sign of immune system activation) were the same in both of the groups that used skin patches and the group that received an injection. Furthermore, the number of adverse reactions was similar in all groups. In other words, the skin patches seemed to deliver the vaccine safely and effectively, even when the patches were self-administered.

So are we done? Not quite. This was a Phase 1 study; a small number of volunteers was recruited to test the method's safety and potential effectiveness (in this case, potential effectiveness was assessed as an increase in antibody titer). A much larger study will be needed to see if the skin patch vaccine delivery method actually reduces the incidence of the flu. A much larger group of patients will be needed, since not everyone in a population gets the flu. This part of the study will probably take at least several more years.

Perhaps some day you'll be able to order a flu vaccine skin patch on the internet, have it delivered through the mail (or by a drone!), and administer it yourself. Today we're one step closer to that goal.

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