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Can we somehow recycle biohazardous waste?

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Mar 05, 2022
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How can we recycle or reuse biomaterial that has served its purpose and is about to be destroyed?
The problem
When you give a blood sample, one part of it is used for the analysis and the rest gets discarded. Well, it's not simply discarded, but undergoes professional waste management procedures.
Waste types
Depending on the type of waste, biohazardous waste (BW) can be divided into :
  • Human blood and blood products
  • Human Body Fluids
  • Microbiological Wastes
  • Pathological waste
  • Animal waste
  • Sharps waste
  • Recombinant DNA and RNA
The material mostly comes from hospitals, other healthcare facilities, laboratories, mortuary & autopsy centers and funeral homes, blood banks, prisons, casinos, veterinary offices, etc.
Existing solutions
The most of the BW is disposed by :
  • incineration - burning; reduces the waste volume, sterilizes, and eliminates the need for pre-processing the waste before treatment, neutralizes potentially infectious agents; expensive
  • autoclaving - sterilisation of the material by steam; effectively kills all life forms; cheaper than incineration
  • other methods of mechanical/chemical disinfection, microwave treatments, and irradiation
After expensive, energy and time consuming waste management procedures are performed, almost all BW ends up on the sanitary landfills. In other words, thousands of kilowatts of electricity, man power and time are used for your blood sample to end up as an ashes in some hole in the ground.

Call to action
Do you have any ideas on how we could recycle/reuse any type of the above mentioned material? Could it be used to generate new value, product, or be converted to energy?
Some examples
  • Simple workflow to repurpose SARS-CoV-2 swab/serum samples for the isolation of cost-effective antibody/antigens for proteotyping applications and diagnosis
  • Scientists repurposed infected human samples (COVID swabs/serums) to produce specific antibodies and antigen cocktails
  • Recycling a Patient's Lost Blood During Surgery Better Than Using Banked Blood
  • Scientists use blood from heart surgery to recover patient's red blood cells, and return it to a patient instead of banked blood - less cell damage, healthier patients, lower costs
  • Turning COVID-masks into plants
  • Prior to this, simple desinfection method should be used to desinfect the mask

[1]https://extranet.fredhutch.org/en/u/ehs/hamm/chap6/section8.html

[2]https://www.aftermath.com/content/where-does-biohazardous-waste-go/

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Creative contributions

DNA sequencing for genetic disorders/ cancers

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Mar 07, 2022
If people having genetic disorders come for a regular blood test for checking their hemoglobin or total blood count and lymphocyte count, etc., the remaining blood could be sent to research labs that study the mutations and/or epigenetic markers upon due consent from the patient. Several research projects require samples from patients having particular disorders. They could acquire them from pathology labs.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola7 months ago
Great idea! I worked on a project where we collected tumor tissues from patients with ovarian cancer. This could work in the same way. Maybe the most important thing would be to not give researchers any information that would allow them to identify the patient. That's where the biggest privacy issues with blood and tissue donations arise and where we should apply strong safety procedures that make sure everything is anonymous and transparent.
But then again, what if researchers (unintentionally) discover you have a serious genetic disorder that can lead to serious diseases or disorders (especially important for kids)?
Should anonymous blood sample collection as a research tool be legally approved without patients' consent, since it would contribute to the common and humane goal of preventing and treating diseases?
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
J. Nikola May be put in a clause in the consent form saying that if any harmful information (genetic or other conditions like diabetes) comes up during research, the results will be conveyed to the donor or their guardian. This will also act as a motivation for the donor to provide consent to use their blood for research purposes. If nothing comes up, their identity need not be disclosed.
The hospital will send the extra sample to the research labs. The hospital will be blinded to the research process and the research lab will be blinded to the donor identities. The research lab will send any adverse report to the hospital. The hospital will then give the report to the donor and ask them to do a confirmatory test.
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Blood for research

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Mar 07, 2022
Research labs working on mosquitos other blood parasites require large amounts of blood to simply grow the pathogen. They could use the remaining blood from blood tests. If the type of blood is not an issue, they could use blood pooled from different people.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola7 months ago
Blood pools for mosquito feeding and research - nice! Blood samples would be great, but the first thing we need to discuss is if the coagulants and additives in blood sample tubes could affect the mosquitos' willingness to use it as food.
It could also be used to understand which blood do the mosquitos prefer and how could we create a systemic anti-mosquito pill!
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
J. Nikola Agreed. I think most labs prefer cryopreserved blood (heparin in the blood disrupts the Plasmodium falciparum activity since the infection depends on the coagulation of blood). If using extra patient blood for research becomes popular, we might be able to develop more research-friendly blood extraction procedures. They might not use anti-coagulants and cryopreserve the blood until testing or perform the test right away. Immediate testing has become the norm so we may see a reduction in time from sample collection to analysis and the remaining blood could be sent to the research labs.
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Turn blood waste into soil fertilizer

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Mar 15, 2022
Use dried and odorless blood waste to fertilize the land.
Why?
  • Blood is rich in nitrogen.
  • Plants need nitrogen.
  • More eco-friendly
  • The current alternative, urea, is produced from CO2 and ammonia, whose production opposes current tendencies to switch to more ecological solutions.
  • Using solar energy to dry blood reduces the expenses and energy consumption
How would it work?
Blood samples that are discarded would be picked up by the specialized company, taken to the facility, and sorted automatically according to the cap color.
Cap color determines which additives are added into the tube and for what will the blood sample be used. Usual additives are sodium, sodium citrate, sodium fluoride, potassium, potassium oxalate and lithium . Since all the above-mentioned elements, except lithium, have their role in agriculture and plant growth, different fertilizing products could be produced based on the blood adjuvants.
Once separated, blood from the samples would be taken out, mixed and dried using the solar drying method . As you may noticed from the reference, blood from the cow slaughtery is currently being dried and turned into a fertilizing product called "blood meal". Therefore, no new techniques should be developed, which makes the whole thing a lot easier.
Lithium from the green cap tubes could be extracted and sold back to the industries that need it, while the processed blood could be turned to fertilizer, too.
Thing to figure out
How to remove the blood odor from dried blood?

[1]https://www.labce.com/spg263741_blood_collection_tubes.aspx

[2]https://www.feedipedia.org/node/221#:~:text=Solar%20drying%20is,a%20complete%20feed.%C2%A0

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General comments

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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi7 months ago
Just curious, are sterilized sharp objects also thrown away or are they recycled and reused?
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
Oguntola Tobi The needles are destroyed to avoid reuse, at least in India. Then, they are probably incinerated; I am not sure about the second step.
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Oguntola Tobi
Oguntola Tobi7 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni I would think they can be reused since they've been sterilized? I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough on the topic anyway. I guess I have my research cut out for me.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
Oguntola Tobi Yes, they can. And it makes them cost-effective, too. The major problem is proper management of the used syringes, including their collection, transport, and sterilization by the healthcare workers. They also have to check for blocked or damaged syringes and discard them. Although the cost of using sterilizable syringes is low, the cost of establishing a system and educating the healthcare workers properly may outweigh the cost of a disposable syringe. I found a good paper relating to the topic.
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola6 months ago
Oguntola Tobi I heard people reuse them after sterilization and quality checks, as Shubhankar Kulkarni stated, but I doubt it's happening everywhere and all the time.
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