Health & Wellbeing

"Smart" tampons and pads could detect yeast infections

"Smart" tampons and pads could...
Stained Candida albicans from a vaginal swab – C. albicans is a yeast, which is in turn a type of fungus
Stained Candida albicans from a vaginal swab – C. albicans is a yeast, which is in turn a type of fungus
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One of the experimental napkins, with its color-changing spots
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One of the experimental napkins, with its color-changing spots
Stained Candida albicans from a vaginal swab – C. albicans is a yeast, which is in turn a type of fungus
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Stained Candida albicans from a vaginal swab – C. albicans is a yeast, which is in turn a type of fungus

Although women in First World countries are routinely diagnosed with and treated for vaginal yeast infections, doing so isn't always possible for their counterparts in impoverished nations. New fungus-detecting hygiene products, however, could make things much easier.

There are at least two challenges for women living in poor countries, who suspect they might have a yeast infection. For starters, they may lack access to healthcare facilities where a vaginal swab could be taken and antifungal medicine could be dispensed. Additionally, societal taboos may prevent them from telling other people about their symptoms.

With these limitations in mind, a team of Indian scientists set out to develop tampons and sanitary napkins that would allow users to self-diagnose such infections. Led by Dr. Naresh Kumar Mani from the Manipal Institute of Technology, the researchers started with store-bought multifilament cotton threads. A heptane solution was used to remove the existing waxes and binders from those threads, increasing their wicking capabilities.

Next, the threads were coated with a molecule known as L-proline β-naphthylamide, which binds with an enzyme secreted by the infection-causing Candida albicans yeast. Those coated threads were then embedded in specific spots within the inner layers of ordinary tampons and napkins.

One of the experimental napkins, with its color-changing spots
One of the experimental napkins, with its color-changing spots

When simulated vaginal fluid spiked with C. albicans and an indicator solution was applied to those items, the thread-containing spots reacted to the presence of the yeast by turning bright pink. What's more, they did so within only 10 minutes of exposure – by contrast, lab tests typically take 24 to 72 hours to provide results.

The scientists state that the technology should only cost about 22 to 28 cents per tampon or napkin. Additionally, it could be adapted to check for other problems, such as urinary tract infections.

The study is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal ACS Omega.

Source: American Chemical Society

3 comments
3 comments
Worzel
All they need to do now, is make it treat the infection as well.
Not much use detecting it, if there's no treatment available.
Karmudjun
Ben - thanks for the article! Who reads Amer. Chemical Society for fun?

Oh Worzel - Please don't consider entering women's medicine. And quit watching commercial television advertisements that discuss "Wings" and "Monistat". Most women complain about the wings and monistat is great for a 3 or 7 day therapy - with no bedtime sex.
There are at least 6 causes of vaginitis, only one of which is the very easily treated yeast infection.

Now to address the Cavalier "Said by a clueless male" pronouncement - "Not Much Use Detecting it...."
Au contraire mon ami: For centuries women have treated yeast infections successfully with Greek Yogurt, Boric Acid, Tea Tree Oil, Essential Oil of Oregano, Coconut oil, Apple Cider Vinegar added to a bath, or taken orally, Probiotics, oral Garlic (which reduces the chances of painful intercourse), and eating more citrus (Vitamin C). When those therapies don't work, they seek professional help.

Now Chemists need to work on pads and tampons to detect bacterial vaginitis, Trichomoniasis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Viral vaginitis. THAT would be an awesome product and we wouldn't have to guess or wait for the lab results to treat properly. After all, who wants their women eating garlic all the time with no cure in sight?
Worzel
Ooh Karmudjun!
First you have sadly misjudged me, I dont have a television, period, for precisely the reason, that I have no desire to be pestered with, ''...commercial television advertisements that discuss "Wings" and "Monistat" or any other mindless adverts for that matter.
Second, what I had in mind was undeveloped rural communities, where treatment may not be readily available. So, ''Not much use detecting it, if there's no treatment available,'' is absolutely pertinent.
What would be better, is something that does both, detect, and treat, selectively, or even better than that, something that will prevent infections in the first place.