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British start-up develops STI-testing tampon

Daye, a former femcare firm that’s now a gynaecological health company, has launched a new at-home screening service for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and other common sexually transmitted infections with the hope it will encourage more women to seek treatment.

Let’s be honest, getting tested for a sexually transmitted infection is never a particularly pleasant experience.

Though it’s essential if you’re having casual sex or if protection fails, it can be uncomfortable, a little invasive, and STIs still carry a great deal of social stigma.

To offer an example of how the latter is playing out, over half of British women surveyed by Bupa in 2022 said they had never attended a single screening, with 36 per cent of them citing embarrassment as the main reason behind this.

Now, given the UK Health Security Agency recently reported a 24 per cent increase in STIs compared to the previous year and that those assigned female at birth (ADAB) are statistically more at risk than men due to vaginal physiology, this is evidently a cause for concern.

Sexually transmitted infections and screening for chlamydia in England: 2022 report - GOV.UK

Low rates of testing mean that many women and AFAB individuals could be unaware that they have an STI (70 per cent of them are asymptomatic) and, if left untreated, STIs pose serious long-term health complications like infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancies.

That’s why Daye, a femcare firm-turned-gynaecological health company, has launched a world-first STI-diagnostic tampon, which uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to check for five of the most common STIs, namely chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas, mycoplasma and ureaplasma.

The specificity of PCR technology ensures that false-positive results are reduced, providing a more reliable diagnosis, and it can simultaneously detect multiple pathogens in one sample.

The process is simple: insert the tampon – which soaks up more fluid and covers a larger surface area than other methods, making it more accurate than a swab and more comfortable than a speculum – as usual, then pop it into the extraction solution.

Daye expands capabilities of diagnostic tampon to include STI screening

After sending it to a lab for testing, results will arrive digitally via the start-up’s app within a few days.

‘The privacy and accessibility of a tampon-based test could encourage more frequent STI screenings among women,’ says women’s health doctor Dr Poobashni Govender. ‘It lowers some barriers to testing, such as clinic visits, which some might find inconvenient or uncomfortable.’

As part of the service, Daye will also provide personalised aftercare including prescription treatments such as antibiotics and antivirals and consultations with sexual health nurses, gynaecologists, and fertility specialists.

The hope is that allowing people to discreetly collect a sample in the comfort of their own home will help speed up diagnosis and treatment, particularly among patient groups such as emerging adults, who are too anxious to get a traditional test.

This Daye Tampon Is The First In The World To Test For STIs

‘Despite living in a world where over a million people get an STI every day, STI testing has chronically low rates post-COVID-19, and as a result, many women and AFAB individuals could have an infection unknowingly because they have no symptoms,’ says founder Valentina Milanova.

‘Our STI Diagnostic Tampon makes STI testing extremely easy, comfortable and discrete. We hope our approach will end the “STIgma”, revolutionise STI testing and lead to a dramatic uptick in the number of women getting checked, helping them protect their long-term health and fertility.’

The STI screening service is only available to residents in the UK for now, though the company says it is looking to eventually expand to Europe and the US.

Daye is also planning to offer HPV testing in the future, which has already been studied in a clinical trial launched last month and which will aid the collective effort in the long-term education and prevention of cervical cancer.