Dasia Taylor, an Iowa City West High School student, is the inventor of a cost-effective way to detect surgical infections.
In 2019, Taylor created surgical sutures that change color, indicating whether a patient’s wound is infected. And while most medical facilities already can determine an infectious wound using state of the art sutures, her invention comes in handy in developing nations where access to smart technology is limited.
“Someone created sutures that uses really fancy technology to identify the basic principles of wound blooding, and I was like, ‘mmm…I think the people who actually need that are not going to be able to afford it,” Taylor said to WHBF, a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Rock Island, Illinois.
Taylor uses beets to dye suture threads. Healthy human blood is acidic and has a pH of about 5. The dye changed color when its pH changed, revealing if the pH is 9, or other words infectious.
About 11% of surgical wounds that become infected come from low- and middle-incoming countries, according to the World Health Organization, and between 2% and 4% of surgeries are from the U.S.
According to the Smithsonian, women in some African nations get Cesarean sections in which up to 20 percent of women who gave birth develop surgical infections. “I’ve done a lot of racial equity work in my community, I’ve been a guest speaker at several conferences,” Taylor said. “So when I was presented with this opportunity to do research, I couldn’t help but go at it with an equity lens.”
The 17-year-old high school senior is honored nationally for her invention. She is one of the top 300 scholars in the 80th Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science competition for seniors.
Taylor is one of the 40 finalists guaranteed to receive $25,000; the top prize is $250,000, according to The Gazette.