Sanitary towels and tampons that turn pink when a woman has thrush are being developed by scientists in India.
Three out of four women will have a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives, which occurs when the naturally occurring fungus Candida albicans is overgrown.
It can be easily diagnosed in doctors’ offices and clinics, but in many deprived parts of the world the disease is often undetected due to a lack of healthcare facilities.
Dr. Narsh Mani, Associate Professor of Biotechnology at the Manipal Institute of Technology, led the project to create a cheap, simple, and effective diagnostic tool to address the problem.
His invention of hanging colors costs only 28 cents per item and delivers results in ten minutes.
“The driving ideology of our laboratory has always been to develop economical technology that can be put into the hands of the people who need it most,” he told The Telegraph.
“That is why the sustainable manufacture of this product is our top priority.”
The products are in the early stages of development and not yet ready for sale, but could be available to the public in three years, says Dr. Mani.
The researchers made the pads by buying cotton thread from a local craft store and treating them with chemicals to remove them back into untreated material.
This was then coated with a molecule called L-proline-β-naphthylamide (PRO), which binds to an enzyme made by the fungus, and the treated fibers embedded in the inner layers of hygiene products.
Work is currently underway to perfect the technology and the manufacturing process.
“Through this technology, we have shown that everyday personal products such as sanitary napkins and tampons can be converted into simple but effective analytical tools with relative ease,” said Dr. Mani.
“Possible variations in technology could result in all types of diseases being tested with these devices.
“Our own laboratory is working on the integration of a multimodal test system in sanitary towels and tampons, with which numerous pathogens / biomarkers can be tested for a large number of urinary tract infections at the same time.
“It will essentially be a single point of contact for most of your testing needs, giving significant autonomy back to disenfranchised women who may not have access to traditional testing due to limited resources or social taboos.
“In its final form, we plan to use the product like any other hygiene pillow or tampon, but with the added benefit of showing whether there is an infection.”
One in eleven women will have three or more attacks of the infection each year.
Symptoms include itching, thick discharge, swelling, yeast odor, and sores.