Flu drug patch with mi­cronee­dles in the works

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Ran­dolph E. Sch­mid

WASHINGTON — One day your an­nual flu shot could come in the mail.

At least that’s the hope of re­searchers de­vel­op­ing a new method of vac­cine de­liv­ery that peo­ple could even use at home: a patch with mi­cronee­dles. Mi­cronee­dles? That’s right, tiny nee­dles so small you don’t feel them. At­tached to a patch like a BandAid, the lit­tle nee­dles barely pen­e­trate the skin be­fore they dis­solve and re­lease their vac­cine.

Re­searchers led by Mark Praus­nitz of Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Technology re­ported their re­search on mi­cronee­dles in Sun­day’s edi­tion of Na­ture Medicine.

The busi­ness side of the patch feels like fine sand­pa­per, he said. In tests of mi­cronee­dles with­out vac­cine, peo­ple rated the dis­com­fort at one­tenth to one-twen­ti­eth that of get­ting a stan­dard in­jec­tion, he said. Nearly ev­ery­one said it was pain­less.

At­tempts to de­velop patches with the flu vac­cine ab­sorbed through the skin have not been suc­cess­ful. In the Ge­or­gia Tech work, the vac­cine is in­jected. But the nee­dles are so small that they don’t hurt, and it doesn’t take any spe­cial train­ing to use the patch.

So two prob­lems are solved right away — fear of nee­dles and dis­posal of hy­po­der­mic nee­dles.

“The goal has been a means to ad­min­is­ter the vac­cine that is pa­tient friendly,” Mark R. Praus­nitz of Ge­or­gia Tech said.

That means “not only not hurt­ing or look­ing scary, but that pa­tients could self-ad­min­is­ter,” he said, and peo­ple would be more likely to get the flu vac­cine.

The patch, which has been tested on mice, was de­vel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with re­searchers at Emory Uni­ver­sity, Praus­nitz said. The work was sup­ported by the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health. The re­searchers are now seek­ing funds to be­gin tests in peo­ple and, if all goes well, the patch could be in use in five years, he said.

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