New Vaccine "Needle Pill" Is What Nightmares Are Made Of — But Does It Work?

Scared of getting shots? Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have tapped your every nightmare and have made vaccinations possibly even more terrifying by suggesting you ingest a pill covered in protruding needles. Well, sort of.

The Atlantic reports that the idea behind ingesting a pod of “microneedles” is that it would make administering vaccines a quick and painless process by which the drug could be absorbed through the stomach lining. Let me break that down for you: the pill is coated for oral administration, and once it reaches the stomach, it breaks down the outer layer to expose the needles, which then administer the drug. One wonders if this is simply a sashay for attention from the medical community, or if this Clockwork Orange-esque terror pill is a legit solution to the long-lamented vaccination prick process.

A similar pill was originally tested to administer insulin to pigs. After the coating was dissolved by the stomach’s lining, five-millimeter needles were exposed and the drug was successfully ingested. The pill then made its way through the pig’s gastrointestinal tract and safely exited its body. So if you haven’t considered how the pill actually leaves your system, there’s your answer.

Let's take a look at this needle pill, shall we?

The Atlantic spoke with the study’s co-author Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. They explain it like this:

“If you look at medication noncompliance, a significant portion can be attributed to some of the difficulties that are associated with injectables,” says study co-author Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. An injection “means training a patient or having a nurse or a physician administer it, and it can be uncomfortable.”

Traverso also explained how the needle pill makes its way through the body all but unnoticed.

“There’s a great deal of compliance at the level of the tissue,” Traverso explains. “It’s not a hard surface that you can push against. It’s very soft. In order to cut something, you need something else pushing in order for that sharp edge to pierce.”

He went on to note that the size of the needles is smaller than the typical fishbones humans sometimes accidentally swallow, and explained that people wouldn’t feel the needles prick because there are no pain receptors in the gastrointestinal tract.

So, good intentions here. However, fat chance trying to persuade any reasonable human being to swallow that medieval-looking torture device, pal.

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