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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 March 2006, 11:31 GMT
New slow-release vaccine heralded
Slow-release vaccines which would cut the need for booster jabs could be ready for use within five years.

The jab uses controlled-release of microscopic nanoparticles that release the vaccine over a few weeks as the body breaks them down.

The new technology would mean instead of having a series of jabs, patients would get a whole course in one shot.

This could save money on programmes, particularly in the developing world, say developers Cambridge BioStability.

You would get a full immunisation course with just one injection
Dr Bruce Roser

The vaccine is being developed by the medical technology firm along with University of Cambridge researchers.

The works is being part funded through a 1.5 million grant from the Department of Trade and Industry.

It would contain two types of tiny bio-glass microspheres made of calcium phosphate glass - which is naturally occurring in the body.

One of these microspheres would dissolve immediately releasing the vaccine, while the other releases the vaccine over a period of time.

Dr Bruce Roser, chief scientific advisor for Cambridge BioStability, said: "The body has physical processes which can gradually eat these micro-particles away, revealing this vaccine which gradually leaks out into the body.

"By this mechanism we can get the vaccine out over a very long period."

Money savings

Dr Roser said: "Instead of having to have a first injection and then a series of booster shots, you would get a full immunisation course with just one injection."

The team hopes this would be more effective than a course of injections because medics cannot always rely upon parents bringing their children back for subsequent doses.

This is especially pertinent in the developing world where, because of the transient nature of some health care systems, follow up doses can be even more difficult to administer.

It would also save money, the team says, as booster shots are estimated to cost up to an extra 30 a go.

The DTI said removing the need for boosters could save up to $1 billion for international development programmes.

'Good idea'

Professor of paediatrics at Bristol University Adam Finn said the idea was a really good one in principle but the "proof was in the pudding".

"It not only has advantages for vaccination programme in the UK but also around the developing world where vaccination programmes are less developed."

He said the use of slow release technology in tablets was a tried and tested and should prompt no cause for concern.

"It looks like from what I've read that these things are not designed to be sophisticated nanorobots but to be inert and broken down by the body," he added.

A spokesman for the Department for International Development (DFID) said:"The research into new vaccine technology is very welcome and has the potential to improve the lives of millions of children in the developing world.

"By giving children just one injection rather than several over a long time it can reduce the chance of vital doses being missed and saves money which can be spent on buying more vaccines.

"For the millions of children in the developing world without proper access to vaccines this research holds out the prospect of a healthier and happier childhood."

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