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Fear of Needles- How About a Drop Under the Tongue

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 10:16 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: FDa and Prescription Drugs, Toxic Substances

Those afraid of needles may be able to get a flu vaccine under the tongue someday.


Research from South Korea finds that one day we might administer the flu vaccine under the tongue (sublingual) as opposed to a nasal spray or vaccine.

The new method calms patients terrified of needles and could  make immunization in developing countries more effective and safer. 

Not only has sublingual vaccination been found to be effective in directly dispersing immunity to the mucus membranes in the mouth, but the needle-free option eliminates the problem of infection by re-using contaminated needles.

The study is in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team led by Dr. Mi-Na Kweon of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul.    In the study, Korean scientists gave mice two doses of either live or inactive flu virus which were delivered two weeks apart. Both methods were effective in stimulating the immune system to fight the influenza virus.

"It (the base of the mouth) is a very good absorbent and competent tissue ... in taking vaccine and presenting it to the immune system ... to initiate an immune response," Cecil Czerkinsky, biological sciences professor at the Seoul National University, said in a telephone interview to Reuters.

Typically a flu or influenza vaccine is injected using a killed virus and is approved for people six months and older.  The nasal spray contains live flu virus but in a weakened state and is approved for ages 2 to 49.  It is not recommended for pregnant women and there is a slight chance the virus could be delivered to the central nervous system.

Sublingual therapy is already used in Europe to deliver allergy drugs to children. With the flu vaccine, the vaccine is held at the base of the mouth for about 30 seconds. It absorbs very rapidly and begins initiating an antibody response say researchers.

The sublingual vaccine provides protection at the point of entry similar to the way one contracts the flu virus, through the air and lungs delivered to the mucosal tissue of the mouth and lungs. Recent studies showing that immune response can be very effective if delivered through the mucosal tissues in the respiratory system, gut, and inside the cheek and blood.

"This has the potential to be widely accepted by people who are afraid of needles, but it's clearly an introductory study and needs to be further studied in humans," said Dr. William Reisacher, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City tells the Washington Post. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages everyone to get a vaccine this flu season and frequently wash your hands. Also tell your children to wash their hands with soap frequently and to always cover for a cough and sneeze. #

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