Low-cost smart syringe shoots for reduced disease transmission

Marc Koska

As the industry turns its attention to smart needles that help reduce disease transmission, one device offers a more affordable option.

Marc Koska designed his K1 auto-disable syringe to be produced on existing equipment with "very, very tiny modifications," keeping manufacturing costs and prices low, The Wall Street Journal reports. Each syringe costs between four and 5 cents, while traditional syringes can run anywhere from three to four cents and single-use syringes can cost double that, according to the WSJ story. The device contains a ring inside the syringe that breaks if someone tries to refill the product after its first use, a simple locking feature that could cut down on misuse.

"It's not just about designing a better product," Koska told the newspaper. "It has to make sense on an economic basis."

But Koska's device is far from the only one on the market, with industry players and nonprofits signing on to the technology to address a growing healthcare problem. About a quarter of the 18 billion medical injections are performed with dirty needles, according to a recent study, and unsafe injections have triggered global outbreaks of infectious diseases.

As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled a new policy in February aimed at reducing harmful injections, promoting the use of smart syringes and adopting new standards for syringe engineering. The WHO recommended that countries transition to the new needles by 2020 and called on manufacturers to ramp up production.

"Adoption of safety-engineered syringes is absolutely critical to protecting people worldwide from becoming infected with HIV, hepatitis and other diseases," WHO HIV/AIDS Director Gottfried Hirnschall said at the time. "This should be an urgent priority for all countries."

- read the WSJ story (sub. req.)