There’s Now a Tampon That Can Test for STIs

There’s Now a Tampon That Can Test for STIs

A UK-based startup is hoping to turn their specialised tampons into a popular test for sexually transmitted infections. The company Daye has launched a new at-home screening service for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other common STIs. The test is currently only available in the UK but will reportedly expand to the U.S. and the European Union soon.

Founded in 2017, Daye offers a variety of products advertised for gynecological health, including CBD-infused balms and tampons. About a year ago, it began to sell what it bills as diagnostic tampons, which are intended to screen customers’ vaginal microbiome, the community of bacteria and other microbes that live in and on our bodies. These screenings are meant to potentially detect or monitor conditions linked to an imbalanced microbiome, such as recurrent yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. But the company is now taking its tests one step further.

Its STI Screening Kit uses tampons to look for genetic traces of the five most commonly reported STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, Mycoplasma genitalium, and ureaplasma. The tests are taken at home and then sent to a diagnostic laboratory along with a completed questionnaire. Customers are expected to receive their results within 5 to 10 days, and if someone tests positive for an STI, Daye will then offer to link them to a licensed nurse consultation and possible treatment services.

The tampon test is based on PCR technology, a well-established technique for accurately diagnosing infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Past research has suggested that tampons can be a viable delivery method of STI testing on par with established methods like throat and genital swabbing. And Daye says that its test is backed up by their own clinical trial data collected from 600 patients.

“We’ve gathered a significant amount of data from our diagnostic tampon over the past few months. We observed a 1% test failure rate due to insufficient sample collection, compared with the 10% and more recorded with the swab,” Valentina Milanova, the founder of Daye, told the Guardian Monday.

STIs have become a larger problem in both the UK and elsewhere. The US has seen growing numbers of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases in recent years, for instance. Gonorrhea, in particular, is becoming harder to treat, thanks to the emergence of drug-resistant strains. One ongoing challenge in managing STIs is that many people will not experience symptoms of an infection, meaning that regular screening is needed to catch cases before they can spread further.

Daye says that its tests can be part of the solution, though some outside experts interviewed by the Guardian have already expressed criticisms of the company’s latest product. Some infections like ureaplasma will never end up causing disease in most people who have them, so diagnosing and proactively treating these infections with medication could be unneeded and might even raise the risk of drug resistance. For their part, the company claims that it’s doing its best to avoid that risk.

“We are mindful of the concerns related to overtreatment and antibiotic resistance. That’s why our clinical protocols include education about restoring a healthy vaginal microbiome as the first key measure to reducing ureaplasma and mycoplasma loads,” Milanova told the Guardian.

The STI screening service is only available to residents in the UK for now, though the company says it is next expanding to the U.S. and EU. Daye is also planning to include HPV testing in the future, which is already studied in a clinical trial that launched last month. The basic STI test costs £99 (about 120 dollars USD), according to TechCrunch, and additional consultation costs £29 (35 dollars USD).

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