Protecting against anthrax with needle-free vaccine

Multiple laboratories are working on needle-free painless vaccination methods that could be sent through the mail to protect against anthrax and other diseases.

The San Diego-based PaxVax, Inc., is working on a capsule vaccination that could replace the five injections military personnel must receive to protect against anthrax. A deadly biological weapon, anthrax killed five people in 2001 when it was sent through the mail to media companies and Congress, NBC News reports.

The earliest vaccines were needle-free and used the live virus from a scab or a pustule to protect people against the disease. The vaccines often infected people with the disease they were meant to prevent. New technologies are yielding less dangerous needle-free vaccinations.

The Infectious Disease Research Institute, a Seattle-based non-profit, collaborated with Medicago to develop an H5N1 avian influenza vaccine using a microneedle patch created in Israel. The device is covered with tiny blades that scratch the skin with the vaccine, NBC News reports.

"You just feel a little pressure - nothing else," Steven Reed, the president of IDRI, said, according to NBC News. "It is incredibly small. You can't even see it."

In addition to being painless, the vaccine could eventually become easier and cheaper to make in comparison to current vaccines against influenza.

"Our idea is to ultimately produce a one-dose vaccine that you could give yourself - imagine a flu vaccine that you can easily administer using a simple, painless microneedle device arriving in your mailbox," Darrick Carter, an IDRI representative, said, according to NBC News.