Syringe reuse not clever: WHO advocates use of "smart" syringes to stop disease spread

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Syringe reuse not smart says WHO
Syringe reuse not smart says WHO

Related tags Infection

‘Smart’ syringes that can’t be reused should be the drug and vaccine delivery technology of choice for healthcare programmes according to the WHO, which says needle reuse is spreading deadly infectious diseases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued the recommendation this morning, citing data from a recent study​ indicating that as many as 1.7m people with hepatitis B virus and 315,000 people with HIV were infected as a result of the reuse of needles.

Instead, the WHO says smart needles with features preventing their reuse – including plungers that break after initial injection and clips that prevent retraction - should be chosen by those in charge of national healthcare programmes.

WHO spokeswoman Judith Mandelbaum-Schmid told that: “More than 70 manufacturers including BD and Unilife are producing smart syringes​” adding that the organisation does not recommend any particular products.

She also stressed that the comments are a recommendation, reiterating that the “WHO is not an implementation agency and we don't procure syringes for our programmes​” which is instead carried out through other agencies.

Smart syringes cost at least twice as much as those that lack safety features – which are usually $0.03 to $0.04 each – and the WHO wants industry to help pay for the cost of changing to the more modern technologies.

The organisation said it “is calling on donors to support the transition to these devices, anticipating that prices will decline over time as demand increases​.”

Unnecessary injections

The other WHO recommendation is that only injections are only given when necessary. The organisation claimed that up to 90% of the 1.6bn injections administered each year could be replaced by oral medications.

Dr Edward Kelley, Director of the WHO Service Delivery and Safety Department, said: “One reason is that people in many countries expect to receive injections, believing they represent the most effective treatment."

Another is that for many health workers in developing countries, giving injections in private practice supplements salaries that may be inadequate to support their families.​”

Source: PLoS ONE 9(6): e99677.

“Evolution of the Global Burden of Viral Infections from Unsafe Medical Injections, 2000–2010” by J Pépin et al.


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