Needles are a somewhat dangerous form of vaccination. The hazard involved is sometimes greater than the disease for which the vaccination is taking place. Unhygienic needles or those used more than once cause 1.3 million deaths every year. Besides this, twenty percent of the population has a phobia of needles which keeps them from getting themselves vaccinated at all. This may lead to disease and death in some cases.
With the needle facing so many problems, it would seem that the time has come for a new and better medium for vaccination. Mark Kendall, a professor at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology, has developed a Nanopatch that vaccinates people without the need of any painful needles. Kendall hopes that this amazing patch will help in reducing the 17 million deaths caused by infectious diseases every year. The Nanopatch is made using a technology that has been used for years in the semiconductor industry, which makes it cheap to produce. The process is called deep reactive ion etching and Kendall and his team have also developed an applicator which allows the nanopatch to be placed in the skin.
Animal testing has shown that the patch outperforms needles. Interestingly, a discovery was made which showed that the Dosage vs. Response curve was completely different in the case of the Nanopatch. It is now more easy for developers to tell how much of a vaccine will create a greater or lower response.
Another problem with needle vaccinations is that they require a continuous cold chain for optimal performance. The vaccinations must be kept chilled and if at some point the cold chain requirement is not met, the vaccination will not perform as desired. This is a major issue in Africa where the World Health Organization estimates that half of the vaccines are not performing at the maximum potency. Kendall’s patch stores the vaccine in a dry form which gives them the capability of being stored at 23 degrees Celsius for a year without any loss in effectiveness.
With testing underway at Papua New Guinea, where the Nanopatch is being used against the HPV virus, Kendall claims that his three biggest targets to eliminate using the Nanopatch are HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. He hopes that the advancement in the Nanopatch will help him fight the 7 million deaths caused by these three diseases every year. There is no doubt that this little patch will revolutione the medical industry.