Australian Nobel-winning scientist Barry Marshall is trying to figure out how to make edible vaccines.
Dr. Marshall was honoured with a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005, along with his research partner Dr. Robin Warren, for discovering the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers.
He says that the bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, whose discovery helped develop a cure for the ulcers, is the key to needle-free vaccinations.
"I don't really think people can imagine what it would be like to walk into a chemist shop, and buy something that vaccinates you against the flu ... that is like toothpaste," news.com.au quoted him as saying.
Dr. Marshall has revealed that scientists associated with his Sydney-based company Ondek have spent three years developing a way to add a vaccine particle into the genetic code of the bacteria, which is relatively harmless but adept at sticking itself to the wall of the stomach.
He points out that up to 20 per cent of the Australian population are believed to have the bug living in their stomach without knowing it.
He hopes that it is this ability that will clear the hurdle that has always faced edible vaccines.
"Your immune system sees the Helicobacter which irritates it a little bit, and at the same time it will see the flu vaccine particle and reacts against that," he said.
"People have always dreamed about having oral vaccines but usually the immune system just regards it as food," he added.
Dr. Marshall also revealed that a method to deliver the bacteria had been successfully tested in mice, and that a study in humans would begin later this year.
He even said that new doses could be created at the same pace at which the bacteria could reproduce, generating within weeks what conventional methods can require months to achieve.
"It removes a 300million-dollar biotech factory out of the equation and you could make millions of doses with relatively simple technology anywhere you wanted to," he said.
"If you had a useful vaccine for Africa ... you'd need electricity, but the whole production plant could come in a box of about one square metre," he added.