We Asked The Genius Teens Behind The STD-Detecting Condom How It Really Works
At the U.K.'s TeenTech Awards on Tuesday, June 23, three students won the healthcare category with an innovative idea that could forever change the conversation around sexual health: a condom that changes colors when it detects an STD. Pretty insane, right?
MTV News caught up with the genius teen inventors -- Daanyaal Ali and Chirag Shah, both 14, and Muaz Nawaz, 13 -- to talk about their project, cleverly named S.T.EYE, and the technology behind it. All three attend Isaac Newton Academy in London and came up with the condom's concept after seeing an article about future inventions, Nawaz told us.
"[It] was called '20 Things That Need To Be Invented,' something like that, but it didn't have the aspect of the testing STIs," Nawaz said. "We added that."
The revolutionary condom is still in its concept stage, but the boys hope to develop a working prototype before October, when they'll attend a reception at Buckingham Palace (casual). To start off, S.T.EYE will detect and color-code four common STDs -- green for chlamydia, yellow for herpes, purple for genital warts and blue for syphilis. As the idea expands, Nawaz said, it'll include more STDs like gonorrhea and HIV.
"I think people in the U.K. find it quite invasive of their privacy to go to a clinic -- if they get tested at home and find out at home, they won't have to get their privacy taken," Shah said. If S.T.EYE changes color, then the user knows it's time to seek medical treatment from their doc.
The technology behind the contraceptive is based on a current HIV testing method called ELISA, which stands for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Sounds fancy, right? Ali broke down the science, which involves the lubricant on the condom changing colors when it detects STD antigens.
"Antigens are attached to a dish -- blood or seminal fluid is added and if HIV antibodies are present, they attach to the antigens, and this could trigger a color change," Ali explained. "With our concept, you would have to have the antibodies already attached to the latex of the condom, so once you add the fluid onto the latex, it would then trigger the reaction and cause a color change similar to the HIV test."
As for how long it'll take before the condom magically changes color?
"Based off the HIV test [Daanyaal] talked about, it should take from 30 seconds to a minute," Shah said -- aka fast enough for you to stop the, uh, hanky panky before it starts.
"The main reason we wanted to do this was to help people because we got some [U.K.] statistics," Nawaz said. "[There were] 450,000 diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections in 2013 alone, and 139,000 of [the diagnoses] were detected between people age 15 to 24."
The boys are working with sexual health experts -- including their TeenTech judge, Dr. Christian Jessen -- and condom manufacturers to develop S.T.EYE further. They hope to gain support from universities such as Harvard as well. In the meantime, though, they're completely floored by the positive buzz their project has gotten so far.
"It's been very, very surprising because every hour or so we just check Google News and stuff and this morning ... there were only around 20 or so articles," Nawaz said. "When we checked now, there's over 80 or so just in English and another 30 in other languages. It's kind of surprising because we never thought we'd get this kind of attention."
It's well-deserved, guys! This condom could someday be the Next Big Thing in contraception. Hats off to you.
For more information about sexual health and birth control, visit It's Your Sex Life.