Safe Needle Disposal in the Developing World


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Membership level
2014-2015 Team
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Team Name
Project Title
Safe Needle Disposal in the Developing World
Design Challenge
Syringe reuse in the developing world is a major issue. Current solutions are far too expensive or ineffective to be used in the developing world. Thus, our team is focused on developing a cost effective auto-disposable syringe for the developing world.
Design Summary
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 16 billion injections are given annually for medical purposes, of which almost 50% are considered unsafe. This means that approximately 8 billion injections are administered every year in which one or more of the three components of a standard syringe – the plunger, barrel, or needle – have been contaminated with a bodily fluid. This contamination has severe consequences for patient and physician health. For example in 2000, the WHO estimated that contaminated injections caused 21 million Hepatitis B viral infections, 2 million Hepatitis C viral infections, and 260 thousand HIV infections.

While there are several different causes of contaminated injections, a significant percentage of these injections are contaminated due to the issue of syringe reuse. Especially in developing countries, syringes are reused due to several reasons including a lack of safety education and poor long term disposal.

One method to prevent the reuse of syringes is through the use of auto-disable syringes, which are syringes that feature some sort of mechanism that renders at least one component of the syringe useless once it has been used. However, one major flaw in current auto-disable syringes is that they require a conscious effort on the part of the physician to engage the reuse prevention mechanism. As a result, these syringes have not proven to be as effective as anticipated in preventing syringe reuse.

That is why the goal of Team SharpTank is to develop an auto-disable syringe that is truly automatic; a syringe where the reuse prevention mechanism is automatically engaged the moment a physician begins the process of an injection.

In order to create an effective solution our device will need to meet several criteria. The device will need to be easy to use and integrate into the typical procedure for administering an injection. It will need to maintain the same level of precision and accuracy as a traditional syringe. Most importantly, the device must prevent a user from reusing the same syringe for more than one injection. However, in order for our solution to actually be adopted in the market it will not only need to be effective but also affordable. A current auto-disable syringe costs approximately $0.06, so the ideal cost of our device will also be $0.06.

Currently, Team SharpTank has developed the 141-Syringe, a single use syringe that prevents reuse. The 141-Syringe has been designed to be of comparable size, weight, volume, and effectiveness to a traditional syringe. This includes optimization of the amount of plastic used, leakage prevention, and efficacy of the prevention mechanism.

Last Update 5/02/2015
Date Updated3
Date Updated
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Becton Dickinson
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  • Bioengineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Dr. Eric Richardson
Faculty Advisor 1 - Department
  • BIOE
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Dr. Maria Oden
Faculty Advisor 2 - Department
  • BIOE

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
2015 Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition - 1st Place
2015 Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition - Most Investable

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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