New shot could condense all vaccines into a single injection

A new type of injection could condense all childhood vaccines into a single, one-time shot.
By James Smith | Sep 16, 2017
While childhood vaccines are commonly given in multiple stages, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new technology that may be able to combine all of them into a single injection.

The new shot works by storing vaccines in multiple microscopic capsules that release both the initial dose and boosters at specific times throughout a child's life.

Currently, children receive a wide range of different vaccines throughout their early years. 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.

Not only does that large number cause a lot of stress for children, it is also expensive and time consuming. Researchers hope their shot gets around such problems and enables kids to grow up without needing quite so many trips to the doctor.

The particles look like miniature coffee cups that are filled with a vaccine and then sealed with a lid. That structure is important because the shape allows them to break down at the right time. In fact, during tests conducted on mice the team found the contents could be released at exactly nine, 20, and 41 days after the initial injection. Researchers are also working on particles that could last hundreds of days before spreading out into the body.

"We are very excited about this work," said study author Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to BBC News. "For the first time, we can create a library of tiny, encased vaccine particles, each programmed to release at a precise, predictable time, so that people could potentially receive a single injection that, in effect, would have multiple boosters already built into it."

While the new technology has not yet been tried on humans, the team is very optimistic about their work. They believe it could help U.S. children, and also have much broader applications around the world.

"The...technique could provide a new platform that can create nearly any tiny, fillable object with nearly any material, which could provide unprecedented opportunities in manufacturing in medicine and other areas," added Langer, in a statement.

This research is outlined in the journal Science.

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