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July 1st, 2011
Vaccines that don't need to be injected could have a dramatic impact, particularly in the developing world, says Mark Kendall from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Brisbane. That's because most injected vaccines must be refrigerated until they're used.
"It's estimated that 50 per cent of the vaccines they use in Africa are not 100 per cent effective because of problems in maintaining the cold chain," Kendall says.
Refrigerating vaccines also adds about 14 per cent to the cost of the vaccine, he notes, and in resource-poor settings where people administering vaccines may not be thoroughly trained, needle-stick injuries can result in contamination.
Kendall's group is approaching the needle-free vaccine from a different angle. Rather than focusing on the stomach, like Marshall, they're developing a way to deliver the vaccine through the skin, on a patch covered with tiny projections.
When the nanopatch is placed on the skin, he explains, the minuscule projections --invisible to the human eye -- breach the outer surface of the skin, delivering the vaccine to a narrow layer just beneath the skin surface that contains a high density of immune cells essential to generate a protective immune response.
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