The small amounts of formaldehyde found in healthcare applications have functional benefits that only formaldehyde can deliver. Because formaldehyde has intrinsic anti-bacterial and preservative properties, it brings important benefits for a number of healthcare applications.
For example, formaldehyde has long been used safely in the manufacture of certain viral and bacterial vaccines. In viral vaccines, formaldehyde helps inactivate viruses so that the vaccine will be effective while remaining perfectly safe. Some common inactivated viral vaccines include those for flu, cholera, polio and hepatitis A. These types of vaccines also do not require refrigeration which means they can be shipped easily all around the world. This is particularly helpful when developing countries are concerned and where limited medical infrastructures can make the necessary delivering of vaccines a challenge. Toxoid vaccines like diphtheria and tetanus use an inactive bacterial toxin to produce immunity; in these types of vaccines, formaldehyde also helps inactivate the bacteria.
Formaldehyde is an active ingredient in anti-infective drugs and is used in gel capsules to promote maximum absorption.
There are also medical research applications for formaldehyde including pharmaceutical research in proteomics and genomics, respectively the sciences of studying proteins and genomes.