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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fridge-free Vaccines

    Posted by Reena Ganga

A British company has come up with new technology that is set to transform the way we are vaccinated and change the lives of millions in the developing world.

As it stands now, vaccines have to be kept cold, making it difficult and costly to transport them. This results in many people in developing countries dying from preventable diseases simply because it's too hard to get vaccines to where they are. Problems with refrigeration also mean about half of all vaccines in the world end up being thrown away.

But a new invention, known as Stable Liquid Technology, enables the creation of non-perishable vaccines. These can be stored and transported without refrigeration, giving them a shelf life of years. Scientists involved in the project believe that the elimination of the costly "cold chain" will allow ten million more children worldwide to be vaccinated each year, working within existing budgets.

The system involves storing the active ingredients in solid microscopic sugar droplets, essentially letting the vaccine live in suspended animation. When the vaccine is injected into patients, the ingredients are rehydrated by body fluids, springing back to life.

While the vaccine is being trialed in India and is geared primarily towards improving vaccination rates in the developing world, there could be many more uses for the technology. In the United States, shortages of the flu vaccine have resulted in some city health departments using "lotteries" to dispense of remaining vaccines for those in eligible high risk groups. While flu vaccines are created differently each year to keep pace with the ever-evolving viral strains, the new technology could still to some degree overcome shortages, since lower storage and transportation costs mean production can be raised, and wastage can be kept to a minimum.

And, in this day and age of global terrorism, the new technology could also provide us with a new defence - allowing us to stockpile vaccines against known biological agents.

Source: APTN

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