A group of London teens have come up with a way of detecting sexually transmitted infections using a unique testing method: condoms. The condom, called S.T.EYE, changes color if an STI like herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, or genital warts is present in either the wearer or their sexual partner.
The young students— 13-year-old Muaz Nawaz and Daanyaal Ali and Chirag Shah, both 14 years old — are students at the Isaac Newton Academy in London who were inspired by recent surveys that showed many people do not get tested for STIs in the U.K.. Their idea won an award in the future health category for the Teen Tech Awards.
"Once the [bodily] fluids come into contact with the latex, if the person does have some sort of STI, it would cause a reaction through anibodies and antigens hanging on to each other, which triggers an antibody reaction causing a color change," Ali told the BBC. "We took inspiration from an HIV testing method which utilizes color-changing."
Antibodies in the condom react with the STI, and would take a few minutes to show results of exactly which infection is present. A user would still need to go to a clinic for confirmation but the condoms do allow for some privacy for testing or a sort of on-demand testing prior to sex.
The condoms are still at the conception stage but at least one manufacturer has shown interest in the idea and believes it can make it a reality.
The idea of a color-changing condom presents other problems, like whether a person would choose not to use condoms for fear of being found out by their partner, or would some fear the risk of violence if either partner were to become upset at the results. Still, the idea has received praise from public health officials who see it as a novel way of promoting condom use that could help prevent thousands of infections.