Vaccine delivery through tiny skin patches could revolutionise immunisation programmes in the developing world.
Scientists have developed a skin vaccination patch — Nanopatch — that is smaller than a postage stamp and uses 100 times less vaccine to elicit immune responses similar to those of traditional needle and syringe vaccinations.
Its efficiency arises because it targets a layer just below the skin's surface that is rich with cells that generate a protective immune response, say the scientists, reporting in last week's PloS ONE journal (21 April).
"Because the Nanopatch requires neither a trained practitioner to administer it nor refrigeration, it has enormous potential to cheaply deliver vaccines in developing nations," said Mark Kendall, a lead author of the report, from the University of Queensland, Australia.
"And the fact that we don't need to refrigerate it has huge implications — it's estimated that half the vaccines used in Africa are unsafe due to poor refrigeration."
The nanopatch works well in mice and the next step is to trial it in humans, so it will take at least five years before it reaches market.