Researchers in India are developing a tampon that changes color when it detects a urinary tract infection.
They soaked fibers in a substance that breaks down in the presence of Candida albicans, a common yeast infection, and stuffed them into sanitary pads and tampons.
In simulations, the fibers turned bright pink, indicating the presence of an infection.
The feminine hygiene products have yet to be tested on humans, but the researchers say they can be sold for as little as 30 cents each.
More than half of all women experience urinary tract infections, often more than once.
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Researchers in India develop tampons and pads that change color when they detect a urinary tract infection
A team from the Manipal Institute of Technology described soaking cotton fibers in an amino acid that breaks down when confronted with Candida albicans, the most common form of yeast infection.
The study, published in the journal American Chemical Society Omega, emphasizes that the team wove the fibers into tampons and sanitary napkins and then treated both products with “simulated vaginal secretions samples” infected with C. albicans.
In both cases, an enzyme secreted by the yeast caused the sanitary product to turn pink.
“The developed method has a long shelf life and high stability,” the researchers wrote, “making it a discrete detection device for testing, offering new perspectives for self-testing multiple diseases that are considered taboo in certain societies.”
Cotton fibers were soaked in special amino acids and woven into sanitary napkins and tampons treated with ‘simulated vaginal secretions samples’ infected with C. albicans
Depending on where in the duct they occur, symptoms of UTIs may include painful or frequent urination, abdominal pain, or fever.
UTIs are extremely common: According to the report, between 50 and 60 percent of adult women will have at least one in their lifetime.
They are caused by bacteria and other microbes that infect the urinary tract and can eventually affect the kidneys, bladder and other regions, Medical news today reported.
According to one study, approximately 7 million doctor visits and more than 100,000 hospitalizations are responsible for UTIs each year in the US alone.
The treated fibers turned bright pink during testing, indicating the presence of a fungal infection
Developing countries may have less access to labs and healthcare facilities needed to diagnose UTIs, the researchers said, making the color-changing tampon a boon in lower-income communities.
The team in Manipal has yet to perfect their invention: Right now, the pink color would be too hard to see if obscured by menstruation.
They hope to find an alternative acid that reacts with the C. albicans fungal infection but produces a more vibrant color, New Scientist reports.
In 2016, a few Harvard graduates announced they were working on a ‘smart tampon’ that can scan blood, allowing women to catch diseases like HPV early.
At this point, the threads turn different shades of pink. The team tries to find an acid that produces a different color that wouldn’t be obscured by menstrual blood
Women’s groups have been working to destigmatize tampons in recent years: in January, the UK stopped levying VAT on feminine hygiene products after years of criticism that they should be classified as basic needs, such as groceries and recipes.
At least 13 US states exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax.
Last year, Tampax was sued for launching new tampons with “silent wrappers,” promising “complete discretion” when opening them.
Critics claimed the brand fueled menstrual shame.
A spokesperson told DailyMail.com that the company “believes”[s] normalizing the conversation around menstruation’, while still allowing people ‘the choice to manage their periods in a way that suits them’.
“At Tampax, we believe in normalizing the conversation around menstruation through awareness, information and education,” the representative said.
“We’re constantly talking to those who use our products to better understand their needs and find ways to meet them.
UTIs account for about 7 million doctor visits per year in the US and more than 100,000 hospitalizations, according to one study
‘We want to give people the choice to manage their periods in a way that suits them.
‘For some, that also applies to the way in which our wraps are designed. They maintain the integrity of the product, especially when kept in bags, and are quiet to open – a feature some users appreciate.”