In India, it's common for scavengers to rummage through landfills in search of old syringes they can sell back to clinics. According to one study, out of the 4 to 5 billion injections that are administered each year in India, at least 2.5 billion are unsafe, meaning these second-hand syringes are potentially contaminated with blood-borne diseases such as as HIV or hepatitis.
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David Swann, of England's Huddersfield University, has designed the ABC syringe in effort to reduce those alarming figures and help save thousands of lives each year. The syringe uses an ink that is sensitive to carbon dioxide. When sealed in a protective environment, the shell of the syringe remains clear. Once it's used and the seal has been broken, the syringe case changes color to alert anyone who sees it, that it's potentially contaminated and should not be used.
"When you compare a sterile syringe just out of its packaging with a syringe that's been washed, how do you determine the difference?" Swann told CNN. "We conceived an intelligent ink that, if exposed to air by taking it out of the package or if the package is breached that would activate it and turn it red."
Swann's calculations are just as staggering. He says that in the ABC syringe is used for five percent of the injections given in India, after five years the device will have stopped 700,000 infections and saved $130 million in medical costs.
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"Anything that can contribute to decrease the reuse of syringes is worth considering and cost is certainly a major factor," he said. "The great advantage of this concept is that not only health care workers but also patients can have a visual appreciation on the safety status of the device. In my view this could be a good deterrent for practitioners to reuse."
Swann's design is a finalist in this this year's Index Awards, in recognition of innovative solutions to global problems.
Credit: Index Awards