People with a fear of needles could be about to get a pain-free alternative to the traditional flu jab.
Scientists in the US have developed a patch with microneedles containing a vaccine which would allow patients to immunise themselves.
The tiny needles in the patch are painlessly embedded into the skin and are dissolved by the body’s moisture.
The patches, which do not need refrigeration, can then be peeled away after 20 minutes, the researchers say.
The lead author of the study, Nadine Rouphael, associate professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, says: “Dissolvable microneedle patches could potentially simplify the delivery of influenza vaccines.
“The patch could be safely applied by participants themselves, meaning we could envisage vaccination at home, in the work place, or even via mail distribution.”
Production of the new medicine is expected to cost the same as manufacturing pre-filled syringes – but the ability to distribute patches in the mail and have patients self-administer means wider costs will be minimised providing a cheaper alternative, according to the study.
Results of the preliminary trial, carried out in collaboration with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, were published in The Lancet.
The researchers say the findings now need to be confirmed in a larger trial.
Professor Mark Prausnitz, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, said: “We compared the immune response of a regular injection to that associated with the microneedle patch and they were similar to each other – the microneedle patch may even be a little bit better.”
*Hopefully they will be available on the NHS very soon.