Health experts in India will begin clinical trials to determine the efficacy of the first dry powder inhalable vaccine for measles next year, according to a report.
Presented at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Washington on Sunday, the report points out that measles sickens millions of infants and children, and kills almost 200,000 annually in India.
Dr. Robert Sievers, who leads the team that developed the dry-powder vaccine, said that it was a perfect fit for use in back-roads areas of developing countries, which often lack the electricity for refrigeration, clean water, and sterile needles needed to administer traditional liquid vaccines.
"Childhood vaccines that can be inhaled and delivered directly to mucosal surfaces have the potential to offer significant advantages over injection. Not only might they reduce the risk of infection from HIV, hepatitis, and other serious diseases due to unsterilized needles, they may prove more effective against disease," he said.
"Many serious infections, such as the measles virus, can enter the body through inhalation. Measles vaccine dry powders have the potential to effectively vaccinate infants, children and adults by inhalation, avoiding the problems associated with liquid vaccines delivered by injection," he added.
Sievers, of the University of Colorado, Boulder, has revealed that he took inspiration for the new vaccine from research on how people inhale tiny airborne droplets of air pollutants.
To create an inhalable vaccine, he and his colleagues a patented process known as the Carbon Dioxide-Assisted Nebulization with a Bubble Dryer (CAN-BD).
The researcher said that the weakened measles virus is mixed with "supercritical" carbon dioxide - part gas, part liquid - to produce microscopic bubbles and droplets, which then are dried to make an inhalable powder.
The powder is puffed into a small, cylindrical, plastic sack, with an opening like the neck of a plastic water bottle, and administered.
"By taking one deep breath from the sack, a child could be effectively vaccinated," Sievers said.
He says that, in animal tests, the inhaler has been found to be just as effective in delivering measles vaccine as the traditional injection.
The researchers are now working on an inexpensive dry powder inhaler that would deliver measles or influenza vaccines to developing nations, and could be used elsewhere.
They believe that the new method may also do away with the problem of people refusing inoculations because of their fear of needles.
Sievers says if the inhaler passes final safety and effectiveness tests, the Serum Institute of India Ltd. expects a demand growing to 400 million doses of measles vaccine a year.
"Human clinical trials are expected to begin next year in India, after animal safety studies are completed this year.
About two-thirds of the world's deaths due to measles occur in that nation. Worldwide, several hundred people die every day from measles-related disease," he said.