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a vaccination for Swine Flu! - Researchers are working feverishly to develop a vaccine to protect us from Swine Flu, but they may develop an all-purpose flu vaccine that protects against many different strains of flu first. Scared of needles? You may be able to be vaccinated with a patch!

Currently drug companies manufacture a different flu vaccine each year to match the strains of influenza that researchers predict will circulate. Adding a universal influenza vaccine to a seasonal vaccine would help improve protection against strains of influenza as they change each year.

Researcher Robert Belshe says, "This is a significant first step in developing a universal vaccine to help protect against pandemic influenza. Novel vaccines, capable of inducing long-lasting, broad immunity against divergent strains, including potential pandemic viruses, are highly desirable."

For those of you who dread needles, good news: flu vaccine delivered through skin patches containing microneedles has proven just as effective at preventing influenza as regular shots. You could even buy the micropatch at the drug store and give YOURSELF a flu shot.

Researcher Mark Prausnitz says, "Unlike conventional hypodermic injections, microneedles are prepared in a patch for simple administration, possibly by patients themselves, and inserted painlessly onto the skin without specialized training. These micron-scale needles can be mass produced using low-cost methods for distribution to doctors' offices, pharmacies and, possibly, people's homes."

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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