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WHO releases new ‘smart’ syringes for safe use

Photo: WHO/Sergei Fridman

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released new injection safety guidelines here Monday, providing detailed recommendations highlighting the safety features for syringes, including devices that protect against accidental needle injury and consequent exposure to infection.

As part of the effort to help all countries tackle the pervasive issue of unsafe injections, WHO is recommending new “smart” syringes for injections into the muscle or skin, which have features that prevent re-use, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some models include a weak spot in the plunger that causes it to break if the user attempts to pull back on the plunger after the injection. Others have a metal clip that blocks the plunger so it cannot be moved back, while in others the needle retracts into the syringe barrel at the end of the injection.

Syringes are also being engineered with features to protect health workers from needle stick injuries and resulting infections.

According to WHO, the use of the same syringe or needle to give injections to more than one person is causing the spread of a number of deadly infectious diseases worldwide.

A 2014 study sponsored by WHO, which focused on the most recent available data, estimated that in 2010, up to 1.7 million people were infected with hepatitis B virus, up to 315,000 with hepatitis C virus, and as many as 33,800 with HIV through unsafe injections alone.

In the newly released guidelines, WHO also stresses the need to reduce the number of unnecessary injections as a critical way of reducing risk, saying that in many cases these injections are unnecessary or could be replaced by oral medication.

“Adoption of safety-engineered syringes is absolutely critical to protecting people worldwide from becoming infected with HIV, hepatitis and other diseases. This should be an urgent priority for all countries,” says Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS department.

The organisation is also calling for policies and standards for procurement, and the safe use and disposal of syringes that have the potential for re-use in situations where they remain necessary, including in syringe programmes for people who inject drugs.(IANS)

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