If you’re interested
in researching vaginal infections, you can do scrapes or urine tests, or you can draw samples with a pipette. Or you can collect your specimens from tampons. As Australian microbiologist Suzanne Garland and her team at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Victoria discovered, tampons are best for epidemiological studies of sexually transmitted diseases in large populations, because women are more likely to cooperate with a test that is familar and self-inserted rather than one that must be administered by a doctor.
Normally, researchers would use a centrifuge to extract fluids to be tested. But this is the one way in which the tampon is not an optimal specimen-collecting tool, because its true purpose is to hold liquid in. “Optimal recovery,” Garland says, “requires manual squeezing.” Wearing gloves, of course.