Patch to protect against measles in children shows promise

  • By Philippa Roxby
  • Health journalist

Image source, MRC Gambia Unit at LSHTM

Legend, In Gambia, a young child has a microchip applied to his wrist to vaccinate him against measles.

A vaccine patch could provide a safe and effective alternative way to protect young children against measles, a trial in The Gambia suggests.

The device – the size of an adhesive bandage – is easier to transport and store than standard injections, especially in remote areas.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, common among children and can kill.

Protecting vulnerable children around the world is a priority, experts say.

Microscopic needles

Despite the existence of a highly effective vaccine against measles, falling vaccination levels since the Covid pandemic have left millions of children unprotected, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

But now scientists hope that microneedle technology can get vaccination back on track, with 95% of children vaccinated.

The microchip patch sticks to the arm and numerous microscopic needles deliver the vaccine through the skin, painlessly.

“These are extremely promising results that have generated a lot of excitement,” said pediatrician Professor Ed Clarke, head of vaccines and immunity at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia.

“They demonstrate for the first time that vaccines can be delivered safely and effectively to babies and young children using microchip technology.”

Image source, MRC Gambia Unit at LSHTM

Legend, Health workers in remote areas could administer measles vaccine using patches instead of conventional injections

In the trial, involving more than 200 healthy young children and babies, the immune response to the patch was as strong as to the vaccine.

After one dose, more than 90% of babies were protected against measles and all infants against rubella – and there were no safety concerns.

The patch stayed in place for five minutes – but this will return to one minute or less in future trials, the researchers say.

And it could potentially be used against other diseases.

Spread quickly

The patch has several advantages over needle injections: volunteers with minimal training can apply the patch, instead of doctors and nurses, and refrigerators for transport and cold storage are no longer needed. It also reduces people’s fears about needles and the risk of injury from them.

Even in countries like the United Kingdom, where there is no shortage of such resources, the patches could be more convenient and attractive for some parents of young, unvaccinated children, researchers say.

The latest figures for England show a rise in measles cases, with a particular spike in recent weeks in London, where some areas have low measles vaccination rates.

In these communities, it only takes one child to catch measles for it to spread quickly, health experts warn.

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine provides the best protection against measles.

Two doses are recommended by the time children start primary school, but older children and adults can catch up on vaccines at any time.

In the same year, measles caused around 136,000 deaths, most of them among children under five who had received only one dose or no doses.

Dr Ikechukwu Adigweme, co-author of the study, said: “We hope this is an important step in the march towards greater vaccine equity among disadvantaged populations. »

Larger trials in young, unvaccinated children are now planned, to see if the patches could be rolled out more widely.

News Source :
Gn Health

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