Saturday, September 19, 2020

Color-changing condoms detect STDs

A recent Washington Post article reported that a group of British teens from England’s Isaac Newton Academy invented a condom that changes color when exposed to a sexually transmitted disease.

“The condom has antibody on it, and it’s being exposed to the antigen which would be in the patient,” Plattsburgh State Director of Student Health and Psychological Services Kathleen Camelo said.

When the condom comes in contact with Chlamydia, it turns green; yellow for herpes and blue for syphilis.

“You get a little reaction when the two come together,” Dr. Camelo said, using a lock and key as an analogy. When the key comes into contact with the lock it causes a secondary reaction, which would be the color change.

“Certainly anytime you’re aware of an exposure and you can take the proper precautions after that or even be treated prophylactically,” Camelo said. Prophylactic treatment means treating someone after they’ve been exposed to prevent the disease.

“Honestly, anytime we can be alerted in terms of exposure to any disease and maybe be able to take action, I think is a good idea,” Camelo said. “I can’t speak to the technology — there are some problems.” Some of the problems she’s referring to are mentioned in the Washington Post article.

“If the user has multiple STDs, does the condom turn into a rainbow? What are users supposed to do once they see the color change? And worst case scenario: What if you’re color blind?” the Post article prompts.

Hotel restaurant management major, Kai Brumaghim thought a precautionary condom was a pretty good idea, “so you know what you’re getting into.” However, Brumaghim said, he probably wouldn’t use them. “Realistically, probably not because I don’t use condoms,” Brumaghim said.

PSUC public relations major Diego Martinez also said he probably wouldn’t use them. “Pretty cool idea, but personally I would not invest in these condoms or buy them. I kind of, sort of don’t want to know. If I’m wearing a condom, why does it matter if it can tell if there’s an STD or not?” He said he believes it is a good idea, but not necessary.

“It’s cool as an idea especially coming in as a freshmen,” criminal justice major Dan Burns said. “I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into.” He said that it’s hard to know what the other person could or couldn’t have. “I’d love to experiment with them, absolutely, give them a go.”

If waiting for the color change doesn’t seem like the ideal method for detecting STIs, students can go to the Health Center for free testing. “If students come in here and are symptomatic,” Camelo said, “we can do a test at the Health Center.” The Student Health Center has two tests – a Chlamydia test, which can yield results within a day, and a gonorrhea test, which takes two days. Camelo said that they can also test urine to check if there’s an infection.

Free condoms are available at the Health Center, Camelo said.

“They don’t change color, but we have color condoms.”

Email Patrick Willisch at

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