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Microneedle patch delivery of influenza vaccine during pregnancy enhances maternal immune responses promoting survival and long-lasting passive immunity to offspring.

ABSTRACT

Influenza virus causes life-threatening infections in pregnant women and their newborns. Immunization during pregnancy is the most effective means of preventing maternal and infant mortality/morbidity; however, influenza vaccination rates of pregnant women remain under 50%. Furthermore, the availability of vaccines in low-resource populations is limited. Skin immunization with microneedle patches (MN) is a novel and safe vaccination platform featuring thermostable vaccine formulations. Cold-chain independence and the potential for self-administration can expand influenza vaccination coverage in developing countries. In this study of pregnant BALB/c mice immunized with subunit H1N1 influenza vaccine, we demonstrate the advantage of skin vaccination over intramuscular delivery of a two-fold higher vaccine dose. MN vaccine induced superior humoral immune responses and conferred protective immunity against a lethal challenge dose of homologous influenza virus. Importantly, MN vaccination of mice at mid-gestation resulted in enhanced and long-lasting passive immunity of the offspring, measured by neutralizing antibody titers and survival rates after virus challenge. We conclude that skin vaccination using MN is a superior immunization approach with the potential to overcome immune tolerance observed in pregnancy, and lower vaccination costs through antigen dose-sparing, which is especially relevant in underserved countries.