Childhood vaccines may go into one jab


Massachusetts Institute of Technology medical engineering expert Prof Robert Langer - for some years the engineer most cited in primary research around the world and the 2015 victor of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Queen Elizabeth Prize - has led research that could see all those jabs combined into a single dose.

Typically, children are recommended to receive nine immunisation injections in their first year (five different vaccines covering 123 diseases with booster shots), and it's fair to say that it's rarely a pleasant experience for anyone.

The technology could lead to a whole collection of vaccines being incorporated into a single jab, including boosters that are released after a specific time period.

EVERY childhood vaccine could be given in a single injection after a breakthrough by scientists. And there are a lot of them. Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, and hepatitis B all come at eight, 12, and 16 weeks, while pneumococcal jabs are administered at eight and 16 weeks, Hib/Men C vaccine at one year, and measles, mumps, and rubella at both one year and three years, four months.

Scientists are developing a new method of packaging vaccines in microscopic sealed "coffee cups".

Crucially, the design of the cups can be altered so they break down and spill their contents at just the right time. They injected a shot with particles containing ovalbumin created to release at 9 days, and particles created to release at 41 days. They have also designed capsules that degrade hundreds of days after injection, although they stress that there is a challenge here in developing vaccines that will remain stable inside the capsules for that long.

The approach has not yet been tested on patients. The new technology remains to be tested on humans, but that day is not far off, according to MIT Professor Robert Langer. The microparticles, invented by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), can be programmed to release their load at a precise and predictable time.

Langer has previously developed polymer particles with drugs embedded throughout them, for slow release over time.

"This could have a significant impact on patients everywhere, especially in the developing world where patient compliance is particularly poor". For this project, however, the goal was to deliver short bursts of a vaccine at specific times.

A fellow MIT researcher observed that an all-in-one vaccine could "be the difference between not getting vaccinated" and receiving any vaccine at all, cited by the BBC.