Vaccine delivery to the oral cavity using coated microneedles induces systemic and mucosal immunity

Yunzhe Ma, Wenqian Tao, Shelly J. Krebs, William F. Sutton, Nancy L. Haigwood, Harvinder S. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Purpose: The objective of this study is to evaluate the feasibility of using coated microneedles to deliver vaccines into the oral cavity to induce systemic and mucosal immune responses.

Method: Microneedles were coated with sulforhodamine, ovalbumin and two HIV antigens. Coated microneedles were inserted into the inner lower lip and dorsal surface of the tongue of rabbits. Histology was used to confirm microneedle insertion, and systemic and mucosal immune responses were characterized by measuring antigen-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) in serum and immunoglobulin A (IgA) in saliva, respectively.

Results: Histological evaluation of tissues shows that coated microneedles can penetrate the lip and tongue to deliver coatings. Using ovalbumin as a model antigen it was found that the lip and the tongue are equally immunogenic sites for vaccination. Importantly, both sites also induced a significant (p<0.05) secretory IgA in saliva compared to pre-immune saliva. Microneedle-based oral cavity vaccination was also compared to the intramuscular route using two HIV antigens, a virus-like particle and a DNA vaccine. Microneedle-based delivery to the oral cavity and the intramuscular route exhibited similar (p>0.05) yet significant (p<0.05) levels of antigen-specific IgG in serum. However, only the microneedle-based oral cavity vaccination group stimulated a significantly higher (p<0.05) antigen-specific IgA response in saliva, but not intramuscular injection.

Conclusion: In conclusion, this study provides a novel method using microneedles to induce systemic IgG and secretory IgA in saliva, and could offer a versatile technique for oral mucosal vaccination. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2393-2403
Number of pages11
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 13 2014


  • lip vaccination
  • mucosal vaccination
  • oral HIV
  • oral cavity vaccination
  • tongue vaccination


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