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28/10/14

Changing colours to save lives

An innovative piece of medical equipment designed to prevent reusing used syringes was shortlisted for the 2014 World Design Impact Prize.

The plastic device developed by David Swann, a professor of design at Huddersfield University in the United Kingdom, is filled (injected) with a colorimetric ink that changes colour, from transparent to bright red, as soon as it is removed from its packaging, i.e. once it has been exposed to oxygen for 60 seconds. The syringes are hermetically sealed in modified atmosphere packaging, the same technology used to prolong the shelf-life of certain foods. As an additional protection, the syringe's plastic interior is shaped in such a way as to be incompatible with other types of pumps.

It is therefore not a matter of preventing the needle from being reused, but rather ensuring that the syringe and its compartment are not reused since they could become infected after the first use.

The team that developed this project presented alarming statistics: 40% of the cases of hepatitis C reported each year are the result of used syringes. The same goes for 30% of cases of hepatitis B and 5% of new cases of HIV. In total, 1.3 million deaths are caused by using used needles.

According to David Swann, the ABC syringe (A Behaviour Changing Syringe) could help to considerably reduce these numbers. The device should, "after 5 years, prevent 700,000 unsafe injections (hepatitis C, HIV, etc.), in India alone. It could help to save 6.5 million years of life and to save 130 million dollars in medical expenses. All that while only being 1% more expensive than standard syringes.

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