Over sixteen billion hypodermic needle injections are given annually in developing countries, but, due to frequent needle reuse and inappropriate disposal, half of the injections are deemed unsafe. Each year, millions of new cases of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV are introduced in this way. In 1999 the WHO mandated that all conventional syringes used in its programs be replaced by auto-disable (A-D) needles that make reuse impossible, but this has not yet happened.
To combat the problem, this E-Team is developing an entirely new system of drug delivery based on plastic microneedles. The needles, which are about .5 mm long and feel like sandpaper on the skin of the patient, are made from bio-compatible, tough, and recyclable polymers. The drug delivery system consists of a flexible container (about the size of a fingertip) that contains the drug to be delivered, and, underneath, an array of microneedles that sits on the patient's skin. The drug seeps through the needles into the skin, and the device is put into recycling.