This vaccine patch may fight Covid variants better than needles: Research

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Sydney, July 31 (IANS): A needle-free vaccine patch could better fight Covid-19 variants, such as Omicron and Delta, than a traditional needle vaccine, according to a study on mice.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia partnered with Brisbane-based biotechnology company Vaxxas and tested the Hexapro SARS-CoV-2 spike vaccine using the Vaxxas high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) technology.

According to Dr Christopher McMillan, from the varsity, the vaccine patch appeared to counteract new variants more effectively than the current SARs-CoV-2 vaccine delivered by injection.

“The high-density microarray patch is a vaccine delivery platform that precisely delivers the vaccine into the layers of the skin which are rich in immune cells,” McMillan said.

“We found that vaccination via a patch was approximately 11 times more effective at combating the Omicron variant when compared with the same vaccine administered via a needle,” he added.

Further, he said the results extended further than just the Hexapro vaccine.

“So far, every vaccine type we have tested through the patch, including subunit, DNA, inactivated virus and conjugate produces superior immune responses compared to traditional needle vaccination methods,” McMillan noted. The research has been published in Vaccine.

Currently-available vaccines may not be as effective because of the constantly emerging new variants of Covid-19, and this has left researchers at crossroads.

“This decreased effectiveness was highlighted by the Omicron variant, which contains over 30 mutations in the spike protein,” said Dr David Muller from the varsity.

The large number of mutations have given the virus the ability to evade the immune responses generated by the current vaccines. However, patch technology has the potential to offer a new and more effective weapon, at a time where new variants are mutating at a rapid rate.

“The patches are not only more effective against emerging variants but are also far easier to administer than needle-based vaccines. But, it is important to stress that existing vaccines are still an effective way of combating serious illness and disease from this virus and it is not the time to drop our guard,” Muller said.

Vaxxas CEO David Hoey said this is further evidence of the game-changing potential the technology platform could have in helping nations better respond to global health emergencies, like the current and future pandemics.

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