Innovation That Matters

Sugary gel | Photo source McMaster University

Scientists use sugar to protect vaccinations from heat

Health & Wellbeing

A sugar-based gel could help communities receive life-saving vaccinations at a fraction of the cost

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Spotted: Scientists at Canada’s McMaster University have created a sugary gel that protects sensitive vaccinations from high temperatures. The gel has the potential to help get vaccinations to people living in hard-to-reach locations.

The gel, which is made with two types of sugar, is mixed in with the vaccine. The process, according to the team, is like adding milk to coffee. It works like a seal that can insulate the vaccination from temperatures as high as 40C for eight weeks.

The method is a big deal because it removes the need to keep vaccinations at consistent low temperatures between 2C and 8C, the team says. Currently, refrigeration costs can add 80 percent to the cost of the vaccination. For instance, in Africa, camels carry the vaccinations in solar-powered coolers. The sugar gel would eliminate that need entirely, according to the scientists.

The method has already been successfully tested using influenza virus and herpes simplex virus on mice. The materials in the sugary gel are already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The team is now working to get the product to the commercial market.



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