A British inventor, Marc Koska, has designed and developed a new type of syringe that has been dubbed the 'smart syringe'. It has been designed so that the needle will snap if the plunger is pulled back a second time. As it cannot be re-used, the smart syringe has the potential to save millions of lives every year and is already being used in dozens of developing countries. Standard syringes can be used over and over again and recent outbreaks of HIV in Cambodia and hepatitis C in Nevada, USA are thought to have been caused by the reuse of the same syringe.
A recent WHO-sponsored study estimated that over 16 billion injections are administered annually and more than two million people in 2010 were infected with diseases transferred through the use of unsafe needles. These included up to 1.7 million people infected with hepatitis B virus, up to 315,000 with hepatitis C virus and up to 33,800 with HIV.
The smart syringe has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which recently published a policy that means that all countries around the world must adopt the use of the smart syringe by 2020.
Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO HIV/Aids department, said that implementation of the smart syringes "should be an urgent priority for all countries" and that the "adoption of safety-engineered syringes is absolutely critical to protecting people worldwide from becoming infected with HIV, hepatitis and other diseases".
Arran Macleod, a clinical negligence solicitor at Penningtons Manches, said: "This is a decisive step in promoting patient safety and reducing the risk associated with unsafe needles. Although the new syringes will cost more than standard syringes, patients will have absolute peace of mind that the syringe used to administer their medication has never been used before and there is no risk of contamination. While contamination from syringes is thankfully rare in medical practice in the UK, we do come across this on occasions, sometimes with serious consequences. A worldwide ‘safe syringe’ is to be welcomed.”