Scientists at the University of Queensland (UQ) have developed a needle-free Nanopatch to administer an inactivated polio virus vaccine. The team says this technology could end polio once and for all and could replace syringe and needles in administering vaccines against diseases.

First study author David Muller explains that Nanopatch targets the immune cell populations in the skin’s outer layers, which is a more efficient mode of delivery compared to the traditional method that target the muscle. Mark Kendall, a professor at UQ, said the Nanopatch decreased the dosage of the polio vaccine by up to 40 times to work, the highest dose-sparing level observed.

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With the help of the World Health Organisation, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and vaccine technology company Vaxxas, the research team gave a lab rat an inactivated Type 2 polio virus vaccine through the Nanopatch. The groundbreaking results observed prompted the team to pursue the technology’s clinical testing.

Vaxxas CEO David Hoey confirms that the first human vaccination will be performed this year. Because Nanopatch only requires minimal training, vaccination costs will be reduced and this would make them more accessible, especially to people living in remote areas.

“Needle-free microneedle patches such as the Nanopatch offer great promise for reaching more children with polio vaccine as well as other antigens such as measles vaccine, particularly in hard-to-reach areas or areas with inadequate healthcare infrastructure,” adds Michel Zaffran, WHO’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative Director.

WHO, who helped fund the work, states that polio or poliomyelitis is a very infectious viral illness that usually affects young kids. The virus can spread by a person to another through the faecal-oral route or by ingesting contaminated food or water.

The virus attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis. Since 1988, polio cases have decreased by over 99 percent. Currently, only Afghanistan and Pakistan remain to be polio-endemic.