BY MATTHEW CHIN
The doctor’s office is always a source of anxiety and fear, especially when there are needles involved. Needles are undesirable, especially when immunizations can cost upwards of $200 if you are travelling.
Fear and the cost of needles are major issues in the developing world, leaving people, especially children, un-immunized and susceptible to deadly illnesses. About 1.4 million children under the age of five die annually due to vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the World Health Organization.
Georgia Tech biomolecular engineer, Mark Prausnitz, is working to combat both issues with a painless vaccination that is also cost efficient. Prausnitz and his team have created a patch that is applied to your skin like a bandaid to administer the vaccination. The patch is one-inch square, no larger than the size of a postage stamp, with 100 microneedles as thin as the diameter of a strand of hair, with what is equivalent to a single dose from a needle. The microneedles are water soluble, and will dissolve into your skin within 15 minutes, making the removal painless as well. The patch requires no training to apply as well as no refrigeration.
The patch is one-inch square, no larger than the size of a postage stamp, with 100 microneedles as thin as the diameter of a strand of hair.
Their plan is to begin by eradicating polio, an infection that attacks nerve cells in the spinal cord, rendering some patients paralyzed. One in 100 people are affected with the disease, according to Centre for Disease Control. After a three-dose process of immunization for polio, there is more than a 99 percent chance of your body producing enough protective antibodies to fight the virus.
However, the cost to treat polio ranges from $3.50 to $7.50 for one dose, making three doses too expensive and out of reach for many people in developing countries, according to WHO. With the patch technology having a potential to cost about 10 cents per patch, this form of vaccination will be accessible to nearly everyone.
Mark Prausnitz is working to combat both issues with a painless vaccination that is also cost efficient.
The CDC has also backed the invention hoping that by 2020 the patch could also be used for other diseases such as measles, and even become a replacement for flu vaccines.
Applying this technology to measles—with an immunization success rate of 93 per cent—will be hugely beneficial to those that cannot currently access the vaccine. In Europe, there was a 98.5 per cent reduction from 800,000 cases of rubella, a virus similar to measles that causes a full body rash and a low fever that is life threatening, to just under 12,000 cases since vaccination was introduced according to WHO.
“Each day, 400 children are killed by measles complications worldwide. With no needles, syringes, sterile water or sharps disposals needed, the microneedle patch offers great hope of a new tool to reach the world’s children faster, even in the most remote areas,” said James Goodson, an epidemiologist from the CDC’s Global Immunization Division in Georgia Tech.
By 2020 the patch will hopefully take the sting out of vaccinations, reaching areas that needles cannot and revolutionizing the application of medicine across the globe.
Prausnitz and his team have created a patch that is applied to your skin like a bandaid to administer the vaccination.