LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A high school senior in Iowa was recently honored for her invention that can help identify surgical infections in underdeveloped countries.

Dasia Taylor, a student Iowa City West High School, said she came up with the idea in October 2019 after reading about sutures coated with a material that can detect whether a wound was healthy or infected.

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“I dabble in science,” Taylor, who is now a senior, told CNN. “It’s been an amazing experience because I’ve never done any research prior to this project.”

Healthy human skin is naturally acidic, with a pH around five. But when a wound becomes infected, its pH goes up to about nine.

Taylor said she started experimenting after she discovered that many fruits and vegetables are natural indicators that change color at different pH levels.

“I found that beets changed color at the perfect pH point,” Taylor told Smithsonian. Bright red beet juice turns dark purple at a pH of nine. “That’s perfect for an infected wound. And so, I was like, ‘Oh, okay. So beets is where it’s at.’”

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Taylor said she developed an interest in infections because women who give birth by Cesarean section in impoverished nations experience higher rates of Cesarean sections infections.

“I’ve done a lot of racial equity work in my community, I’ve been a guest speaker at several conferences,” says Taylor. “So when I was presented with this opportunity to do research, I couldn’t help but go at it with an equity lens.”

Since beginning to compete on the science fair circuit in February 2020, Taylor’s beet juice-coated sutures have won numerous regional titles. She was awarded a $25,000 scholarship as a top-40 finalist among 1,760 other entrants in Regeneron’s Science Talent Search.

Taylor is now seeking a patent for the invention.

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“Equity work has my heart, and that’s what I want to do for my career,” Taylor said. “I do plan on continuing my research, and ensuring that this project is released and people actually get this discovery, and it will save lives.”