Doctor, Mechanical Engineer Developing Disposable Plastic Hypodermic Needles to Prevent Spread of HIV, Hepatitis
September 22, 2004
A doctor who works for CDC's National Immunization Program and a mechanical engineer from the Georgia Institute of Technology have received a $60,000 seed grant to develop disposable plastic hypodermic needles for use in developing countries to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis through unsafe medical practices continues, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Dr. Robert Chen, who helped found the World Health Organization's Safe Injection Global Network, and Jonathan Colton, a mechanical engineer who specializes in new types of plastics and the design of car and ship parts, are attempting to overcome the "engineering challenges" of converting pliable plastic into viable hypodermic needles, according to the Journal-Constitution. "The challenge is to fashion a thin enough needle able to pierce skin and allow liquid to flow through rapidly without bending," Colton said, adding, "It's easier to disable a plastic needle than a steel needle, and it's easier to recycle the material." The researchers said that the needles could be melted to "render reuse impossible" and recycled to be made into water containers, eating utensils or bricks, which would reduce disposal concerns, the Journal-Constitution reports. Chen said that up to half of injections administered in developing countries are unnecessary, according to the Journal-Constitution. WHO estimates that the 16 billion injections administered annually in developing countries cause 260,000 cases of HIV, 21 million cases of hepatitis B and two million cases of hepatitis C. CDC and Georgia Tech both funded the grant, and Colton "is in discussions with a leading medical device company" about the plastic needles. However, the needles will have to be tested in animals and humans before they are marketed, the Journal-Constitution reports (Wahlberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/22).