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Now comes a flu vaccine without a needle

health-and-fitness Updated: Jan 30, 2008 12:13 IST

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Korean scientists have developed a vaccine for influenza, also known as flu, which may work when simply placed under the tongue.

Influenza is an infectious respiratory disease that causes fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort. Sometimes it causes pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly in young children and the elderly.

The needle-free vaccine developed by the team led by Mi-Na Kweon of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul worked in mice, reported the online edition of FOX News.

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, researchers said.

Two doses of influenza vaccine under the tongue of mice primed the animals' immune systems to fight off what would otherwise have been a deadly dose of flu, the scientists said.

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

"If the findings are replicated in humans, they could pave the way for the development of a new generation of vaccines that could be used for mass vaccination against respiratory infections, including the pandemic avian-human influenza viruses," Kweon said.

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