January 9, 2004
An adhesive patch hailed as a revolutionary method of mass vaccination may increase a child's risk of type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, Australian researchers have found.
The technique, which administers a vaccine through a patch, is still in final clinical trials.
Its US developer claims 70 per cent of immunisations will be carried out using the patch within five years because it is cheaper, less painful, and more hygienic.
But research by James Cook University's Alan Baxter and Sydney University's Tony Basten has raised serious doubts about the technique's safety.
Similar to existing vaccines, the patch contains components of a virus or bacteria, but it also requires an accelerant that increases the body's immune response to the vaccine.
"We've found that the accelerant also accelerates other ongoing tissue damage, which may be occurring in the person," Professor Baxter said. "This means these new vaccines are capable of exacerbating sub-clinical diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis."
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system attacking the cells in the pancreas, which make insulin.
"The accelerant used in the patch amplifies the immune response in the pancreas and increases their likelihood of diabetes," Professor Baxter said.
Published in The Journal of Immunology, the research showed that more severe cases of multiple sclerosis and diabetes appeared earlier in mice treated with the accelerant.
"The people who this is being tested on, now really need to be tested
for evidence of the progression of all sorts of diseases," Professor Baxter
Copyright © 2004, The Age Company Ltd