They are increasingly popular among adults, but wearable biosensors that non-invasively monitor health in many cases seem to adapt little to children. This is because they are often bulky or have hard surfaces that could damage the delicate skin of newborns.

Now, however, for monitoring real-time glucose levels in saliva, a pacifier-based biosensor has been developed, a possible aid in the future for diagnosing and treating diabetes in children. A number of scholars at the University of California San Diego and the results have been published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. Researchers have previously developed wearable biosensors that are incorporated into clothing or attached to the skin.

However, the long-term use of these devices can cause discomfort that children sometimes cannot easily communicate. Until now, moreover, all wearable devices made for children measure only physical characteristics such as heart or respiratory rate and not biomarkers, such as glucose. Precisely for this reason, a pacifier was made with a teat equipped with a channel through which saliva can be transferred in small quantities to a detection area. There, an enzyme attached to a strip of electrodes converts the glucose detected in the fluid into a weak electrical signal, which can be detected wirelessly from a mobile phone app.

The researchers have not yet tested the device on children, but conducted a preliminary analysis on adult patients with type 1 diabetes. Using the pacifier, the team detected changes in glucose concentrations in the saliva of patients before and after a meal. The device could one day also be configured to monitor other disease biomarkers.