SUNDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Wouldn't it be nice if you could get the flu vaccine through a stick-on skin patch instead of a shot?
Experiments in mice show that using skin patches containing tiny, painless "microneedles" to deliver the influenza vaccine may someday be a viable alternative to traditional shots.
The microneedles -- less than 1 millimeter in length, or about half the thickness of a nickel turned on its side -- dissolve into the skin and are small enough that they don't draw blood or cause pain, researchers said.
Better yet, if the patches are found to work in humans, getting an immunization may be as simple as stopping by the pharmacy, picking up your patch and slapping it on.
"For vaccination, it could be a game changer," said lead study author Sean Sullivan, who did the research when he was a doctoral student at Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology. "There are so many little annoyances with the [standard] vaccination process that could go away."
The study is published in the July 18 online issue of Nature Medicine.
Experts agreed the findings were promising. "This is a tremendous advancement in the technology," said Rick Bright, scientific director of the Influenza Vaccine Project at PATH in Washington, D.C.
Because the patch appeared to work using less vaccine than in a typical shot, the discovery has the potential to reduce the amount of vaccine that needs to be produced, which could alleviate shortages in case of pandemic flu, Bright added.
Dr. Paul A. Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also called the technology a "breakthrough."
However, "the caveat is, this needs to be extended to humans," Offit said. "It's not uncommon for vaccines or vaccine delivery systems to look very promising in experimental anim
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