A super injection has been invented which can deliver several doses of a drug at once.
The single jab offers hope for people who are scared of needles, and could prevent children missing follow-up vaccinations which leaves them vulnerable to illness.
It works using tiny capsules programmed to break down at different times, releasing drugs into the body weeks after being injected. They are made from a safe substance already used by doctors for dissolvable stitches.
Experts say the capsules could be considered for use on the NHS in 12 years, potentially allowing babies to have their polio, meningitis and pneumonia vaccine in one doctor’s appointment.
They have already worked in mice to release their load nine, 20 and 41 days after being injected.
A super injection has been invented which can deliver several doses of a drug at once (stock)
FLU VACCINES WORK IN CHILDREN BUT NOT THE ELDERLY
Last winter’s flu vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 66 per cent in children but was ineffective in the elderly, Public Health England (PHE) announced earlier this month.
Among youngsters, the jab was eight per cent more efficacious than the previous year and worked the best since it was first used in children in 2013.
Yet, the vaccine was ineffective in people aged 65 and over.
This is thought to be due to the jab failing to protect against the H3 flu strain, which circulated last winter.
Each year, the World Health Organization selects the three most common strains of flu to create the best vaccine. Such jabs are typically effective in 50 per cent of cases.
‘Really nice and neat solution’
Professor Robert Langer, a senior author of the study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: ‘We are very excited about this work because, for the first time, we can create a library of tiny, encased vaccine particles, each programmed to release at a precise, predictable time, so that people could potentially receive a single injection that, in effect, would have multiple boosters already built into it.’
Mechanical engineers designed the tiny capsules to be injected together at the same time. However they are made from a polymer called PLGA, which can be designed to naturally break down at different rates, so that each capsule releases its contents when needed.
In mice, these capsules did not leak and discharged their contents in sharp bursts one at a time after nine, 20 and 41 days. They were filled with an egg white protein, which can be measured in the body by the animal’s immune reaction.
Dr Asel Sartbaeva, a Royal Society research fellow at Bath University’s department of chemistry, who was not involved with the study, said: ‘The idea the team is trying to develop is very good. Having something like this, providing all of the vaccines in one injected shot, would be a really nice and neat solution.
‘I have a couple of reseravtions about this technology at the moment – would the individual vaccine components survive for days after the injection and how would the capsule materials be removed from the body?
‘But, as a concept of delivering all vaccines in one shot, I think it’s a terrific idea and with more development it will be good to see it applied.’
Safety may take 15 years to demonstrate
Dr Kevin Pollock, honorary lecturer in infection, immunity and inflammation at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘I have used micro-particles before in mice. The safety aspects of such a delivery mechanism would need to be demonstrated in many animal models and clinical trials before these will come to fruition.
‘We are talking 12 to 15 years before such a proposed vaccine set-up would be considered as part of any national vaccine. But it is exciting to see since our proposed efforts to generate vaccines against HIV, TB and malaria have largely come to nothing using existing adjuvant systems.’
The micro-capsules, which resemble tiny coffee cups sealed with a lid, are part of a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are hoped to be of use in developing countries, where it can be hard to transport vaccines and babies may not see a doctor very often.
In Britain, babies have 13 separate jabs in their first year, at eight, 12 and 16 weeks, and 12 months. The study is published in the journal Science.