Injection-free vaccination technique could address global vaccine challenge for diseases such as HIV and malaria
Scientists at King’s College London have demonstrated the ability to deliver a dried live vaccine to the skin without a traditional needle, and shown for the first time that this technique is powerful enough to enable specialised immune cells in the skin to kick-start the immunising properties of the vaccine.
Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers say although it is an early study this important technical advance offers a potential solution to the challenges of delivering live vaccines in resource-limited countries globally, without the need for refrigeration. A cheaper alternative to hypodermic needles, it would also remove safety risks from needle contamination and the pain-free administration could lead to more people taking up a vaccination. The researchers add that it could have an impact beyond infectious disease vaccination programmes, for example managing autoimmune and inflammatory conditions such as diabetes.
HIV, malaria and TB represent major global health challenges. Although promising research is underway to develop vaccines for these diseases, considerable stumbling blocks remain for countries where transporting and storing live vaccines in a continuously cold environment (around 2°C to 8°C or below) would not be possible. If a cold chain cannot be maintained for a live vaccine there is a high risk it could become unsafe and lose effectiveness.