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Researchers Report Microneedle Vaccine Patch for Pregnant Women a Possibility in the Future

Update Date: Dec 03, 2013 10:01 AM EST

Vaccines can effectively protect children and adults from dangerous infections. In third-world countries, the lack of vaccines contributes to the relatively high mortality rates. Furthermore, in these nations, medical personnel trained to administer vaccines are also limited. In a new study, researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology are examining the potential benefits in using a microneedle vaccine patch for pregnant women living in third-world nations. The patch would ideally be very easy to administer.

The project is headed by Ioanna Skountzou, MD, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine. The researchers aim to find a way to increase vaccination rates, especially for pregnant women. The microneedle patches would administer the vaccine using a relatively easy process. The patches will be applied directly onto the skin similar to a small bandage. The patch will then dissolve and release the vaccine into the skin within minutes. If perfected, the patches would be easy to deliver across the world and simple to administer. The patches would also eliminate the risk of infection, which could occur when using needles.

According to the background information provided by Medical Xpress, influenza infections could lead to complications for fetuses and newborns. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that these infections increase a woman's risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal deaths. The pregnant women are also at a greater risk of developing cardiopulmonary complications, diseases and deaths if they are infected with influenza during their second and third trimesters.

"Despite the World Health Organization's recommendation that pregnant women should be vaccinated against influenza and tetanus, only 50 percent of pregnant women receive flu vaccinations worldwide and reduction of maternal and newborn death rates in developing countries is far below the Millennium Development goals," said Skountzou. "Seven percent of newborns and 30,000 pregnant women in Sub-Saharan countries are dying each year due to tetanus infections. We are hoping these microneedle patches will save millions of lives of mothers and babies before and after birth."

The project had recently received a two-year grant worth $250,000 from Saving Lives at Birth. Saving Lives at Birth is a partnership that includes the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Norway, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, was launched in 2011.

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