Measles Vaccine Spray Could Boost Developing Countries
March 2, 2000 (Minneapolis) -- There's good news for developing countries
still battling measles. Delivering a booster of the measles vaccine through an
aerosol spray may be as effective and safer than giving injections, according
to a report from South African researchers in this week's issue of the journal
"The aerosol route of administration ... is particularly suited to mass
immunization campaigns because of its cost-effectiveness," lead author
Athmanundh Dilraj tells WebMD. He adds that it is quick and easy to administer
by workers with limited medical training. Dilraj is a senior research scientist
and PhD candidate at the Medical Research Council in Durban, South Africa.
In this study, more than 4,300 children ranging from 5 to 14 years old
received one of two different strains of measles and received the vaccines by
either injection or aerosol spray. After following the children for one year,
they found that the aerosol was the most effective at building up immunity for
one strain of measles. It was less effective at building up immunity for
another strain of the disease.
However, there may be a difference in response by ethnicity, the authors
write. Children of Indian descent had a better response to the aerosolized
vaccine than African children.
One observer agrees. "An aerosol delivery of booster doses of the
measles vaccine is promising in the developing world," says Edgar K.
Marcuse, MD, a pediatrician with an interest in immunization at Children's
Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle. However, for parents in the U.S. who
may be hoping to spare children the discomfort of the measles booster often
required before entry into middle school or junior high, these findings have
limited relevance because the injected vaccines used in this trial are not
those currently in widespread use in the U.S., Marcuse tells WebMD. He is
professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.
Caused by a virus, measles is a common contagious disease most often seen in
childhood. Symptoms include mild to high fever, harsh cough, runny nose, red
eyes, sneezing, and tiny white spots on gums or inside cheeks. These symptoms
are generally followed by the typical measles rash, which spreads from the face
downward to the arms and legs, and peeling skin.
The measles vaccine is usually given by injection as part of the combined
MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine between the ages of 12 to 15 months
old. A second "booster" dose of MMR is usually given when the child is
between ages 4 and 6, and starting school.
"We're a long way from recommending routine aerosol booster doses,"
says Marcuse. "While this delivery system was effective with one strain, it
clearly had difficulty with the other in the study. We need to understand why
Indian and African children had different response rates." He also notes
that giving the vaccine through an electric device, like those used in the
study, would restrict its use in rural areas.