Three London teenagers have invented a condom that changes colour if the wearer has a sexually transmitted disease.
The condoms, made from a rubber called S.T.EYE, react to various pathogens that cause STDs, turning green for chlamydia, blue for syphilis, yellow for herpes and purple for genital warts.
The invention was the brainchild of Dannyaal Ali, 14, Muaz Nawaz, 13 and Chirag Shah, 14, who won first prize in Britain’s TeenTech Awards, set up to encourage schoolchildren to pursue careers in the sciences.
Ali said: “We wanted to make something that made detecting harmful STIs safer than ever before, so that people can take immediate action in the privacy of their own homes without the often-scary procedures at the doctors,” adding: “We’ve made sure we’re able to give peace of mind to users and let people act even more responsibly than ever before.”
He told the BBC: “Once the [bodily] fluids come into contact with the latex, if the person does have some sort of STI, it will cause a reaction through antibodies and antigens hanging on to each other, which triggers an antibody reaction causing a colour change.
“We took inspiration from an HIV testing method [called Elisa] which utilises colour-changing.”
The boys have won £1,000 for their school, the Isaac Newton Academy, and will meet Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace in October.
Dr Mark Lawton, a consultant in sexual health and HIV at Royal Liverpool Hospital, pointed out a few potential problems, however: “To play devil’s advocate, would it dissuade people from using condoms if they were worried about being found out?
“Or if they were worried that the person they were going to have sex with didn’t want to have sex with them if they found something?”
Overall, though, he praised the teenagers for their ingenuity and awareness of STDs.