An Iowa High School Student Invented a Cost-Effective Way to Detect Infections in Surgical Patients
Dasia Taylor, a 17-year-old high school senior, was honored for her invention that can help identify surgical infections in underdeveloped countries.
High school student Dasia Taylor used the juice from nearly three dozen beets to figure out whether surgical wounds are infected or not. The bright-eyed senior, who submitted her research to national science fairs, figured out that if she used the vegetable's juice to dye the fabric of suture thread, which is used to hold together surgical wounds, it would change color and alert doctors of infections, the Gazette reported.
The 17-year-old student at Iowa City West High School came up with the idea in October 2019 after reading about sutures coated with a material that can detect the status of a wound –– in other words, whether the wound was healthy or infected.
She learned that the color of the beet juice would change from red to dark purple if a surgical wound was infected. The best indicator of infection is by noting the change in a patient's pH levels, Taylor says. The average pH level of healthy skin is five, but when a wound is infected the level can go up to about nine, according to the National Library of Medicine.
"I found that beets changed color at the perfect pH point," Taylor told Smithsonian.
Taylor went on to win numerous awards from regional science fairs and was later named a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, considered the country's oldest and most prestigious competition for high school seniors, according to the outlet.
Taylor developed an interest in infections that develop after Cesarean sections. Specifically, she cared about impoverished nations where women experience high rates of C-section infections.
The prodigy student told Smithsonian that when she was given the opportunity to conduct research, she "couldn't help but look at it through an equity lens."
Taylor is one of 300 students in the nation to be named a Regeneron Science Talent Scholar. She was selected from a pool of 1,760 students across the United States.
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