Image Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology
No one like shots. Which is why there are thousands of patents for alternate forms of delivery for immunizations, such as the “flu shot.” There have been many forms over the years, none to yet achieve the Star Trek version that the patient only knew was administered because of the sound, not sensation.
However the latest approach seems to show great promise. The small patch, consists of hundreds of dissolvable vaccination solution or medication. The patch is about the size of a dime and made of i00 solid, water-soluble needles, just long enough to penetrate the skin. The distributed, flat design means there is no traumatic readying by the patient of the long needle, or the older style “punch” shot that used a tremendous amount of pressure, estimated at 100 times that in a car tire. The punch style has improved in time to be both less painful, and to include new sanitary protections that ensure there is no contact from patient to patient as their was in older styles.
The punch style and needle style injections both caused patients pain, sometimes lasting for a day, sometimes, if administered incorrectly, the needle could cause a deep bruise. With the patch style there is no need to convince patients to prepare themselves. The texture is mildly abrasive and may cause an itch if anything.
Another advantage, once product ramp up and market readiness stabilizes is price. The patch version is expected to be $1 per use, where typical syringe delivery of flu shots is around $1.65. The punch style of immunization average $3-$4 per use.
Microneedle patches are certainly the least intrusive and least painful version of immunization available, especially after the once lauded nasal spray version of flu immunization is now advised against since the 2016-2017 year showed ineffective results.
The small size and foolproof design of microneedles mean that medicines and vaccinations could even be delivered by mail and self administered.
Testing for the patch included 100 individuals for flu immunization at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. The groups split into placebo use, the patch administered by a medical professional, the patch self-administered by the patient, and intramuscular injections. The trial showed promising results with blood tests showing the antibodies expected from the vaccination in place 6 months after the administration of the patch.
The future applications for such a complete redesign is promising far beyond flu prevention. Benefits would be substantial in areas where medical centers are rare and often mobile. Delivery of vital, emergency nutrients, medicine, antibiotics and other life saving materials in less expensive and effective, and self administered design offer very positive possibilities.
Independence, portability, less trauma, less cost and less flu. Nice design!