Scientists in Britain have created the world’s first flu vaccine in pill form.
The breakthrough could save the NHS millions as it is the first synthetic vaccine, so it does not have to be kept in the fridge.
Researchers also hope it would boost uptake for people with limited access to a GP or nurse.
Study leader Prof Andrew Sewell, of the School of Medicine at Cardiff University, said oral vaccines were “great news for people with a fear of needles”.
He added: “They can also be much easier to store and transport, making them far more suitable for use in remote locations.”
Vaccines usually introduce a harmless form of a germ into our bodies.
These stimulate immune cells, which remember the germ – often proteins – and launch a stronger attack if it returns.
Researchers created a “mirror image” of such proteins, triggering the same immune response.
Oral vaccines are rare as they are usually digested, so protection is lost.
Refrigerating biological vaccines accounts for most of the cost of transporting them.
The next step for the study, in Journal of Clinical Investigation, is to test the vaccine on humans.
Dr Gino Martini, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “A pill-based vaccine can only have a positive impact on the number of patients receiving the vaccine.”
In Europe, less than a third of older people had flu jabs this year.
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