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 put them in sanitary napkins and tampons.
In simulations, the fibers turned light pink, indicating an infection.
The feminine hygiene products have yet to be tested on humans, but the researchers say they could be sold for as little as 30 cents a piece.
More than half of all women experience urinary tract infections, often more than once.
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Researchers in India are developing 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 exposed to Candida albicans, the most common form of fungal infection.
The study, published in the American Chemical Society Omega, highlights that the team woven the fibers into tampons and sanitary napkins, and then treated both products with a “simulated vaginal discharge sample” infected with C. albicans.
In both cases, an enzyme secreted by the yeast caused the hygiene product to turn pink.
“The developed method is characterized by a long shelf life and high stability,” the researchers wrote, “which makes it a discrete detection device for tests that offers new possibilities for self-testing of several diseases that are taboo in certain societies.”
Cotton fibers were soaked with special amino acids and woven into sanitary towels and tampons, which were treated with a “simulated vaginal discharge sample” infected with C. albicans
Depending on where they occur in the urinary tract, symptoms of urinary tract infections can include painful or frequent urination, abdominal pain, or fever.
Urinary tract infections are very common: between 50 and 60 percent of adult women will have at least one in their lifetime, according to the report.
They are caused by bacteria and other microbes that infect the urinary tract and can ultimately affect the kidneys, bladder and other regions, Medical News Today reported.
According to one study, urinary tract infections and more than 100,000 hospital admissions account for around 7 million doctor visits in the United States alone.
The treated fibers turned light pink in color during the test, indicating the presence of a yeast infection
Developing countries may have less access to the laboratories and health facilities needed to diagnose urinary tract infections, the researchers said, making the color-changing tampon a boon in low-income communities.
The team in Manipal has yet to perfect their invention: At the moment, the pink color would be too difficult to see if it were covered by menstrual discharge.
They hope to find an alternative acid that will react with the C. albicans fungal infection but create a more vibrant color, New Scientist reports.
In 2016, two Harvard graduates announced that they were attending one ‘Smart tampon’ that could scan blood and enable women to spot diseases like HPV early on.
At the moment the threads take on different shades of pink. The team is working to find an acid that will produce a different color that won’t be obscured by menstrual blood
Women’s groups have worked to de-stigmatize tampons in recent years: in January the UK suspended VAT on feminine hygiene products after years of criticism for classifying them as basic necessities such as groceries and prescriptions.
At least 13 US states exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax.
Last year Tampax was criticized for launching new tampons with “silent wrappers” that promise “complete discretion” when opening.
Critics claimed the brand fed the shame of the times.
A spokesman told DailyMail.com the company “believe”[s] in normalizing the conversation around the period “while still giving people the option to arrange their periods in the way that is right for them.
“At Tampax, we believe in normalizing period-related conversation through awareness, information and education,” said the representative.
“We talk to those who use our products all the time to better understand their needs and then find ways to meet them.
Urinary tract infections account for approximately 7 million doctor visits and more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year in the United States, according to a study
“We want people to be able to manage their periods in the way that is right for them.
“For some, that includes the way our wrappers are designed. They preserve the integrity of the product, especially when kept in pouches, and are noiseless to open – a feature that some users appreciate. “