Liquid drops could replace needles for flu vaccinations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Relief may be on the way for all those youngsters trembling at the thought of another needle jab. One day the flu vaccine may simply be placed under the tongue.

Korean researchers say the new vaccine worked in mice, avoiding not only the painful prick but also the discomfort some people feel from the inhaled vaccine.

The team led by Dr. Mi-Na Kweon of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul reported their findings in Monday’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Better ways of delivering vaccine have long been under study, ranging from orally to inhaled, but all seem to have drawbacks.

Now, Kweon and colleagues say, two doses of influenza vaccine under the tongue of mice primed the animals’ immune system to fight off what would otherwise have been a deadly dose of flu.

Next, they are turning their attention to people, to see if the under-the-tongue vaccine also prompts a strong immune response.

Placing a couple of drops of liquid under the tongue gets the vaccine directly to mucus membranes and prompts a response both in mucus tissues throughout the body as well as in the immune system itself, the researchers said.

“These studies provide a basis for further human testing of this alternative form of needle-free vaccination. Aside from its convenience, sublingual vaccination appears to disseminate immunity to a broader range of organs than the classical routes of injecting or ingesting vaccines,” said Dr. Cecil Czerkinsky, deputy director-general for laboratory science at the Institute.