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How the LifeStraw is eradicating an ancient disease

Take a look at the technology behind the famous water filter that makes dirty water drinkable.


This story is part of Tech for a Better World, stories about the diverse teams creating products, apps and services to improve our lives and society.

If you've spent any time near a lake or other body of water, you may've seen a fellow traveler bent over the dirty H2O with a large straw, drinking away. Chances are they're using a LifeStraw, a high-tech water filtration device developed by humanitarian company Vestergaard

Now playing: Watch this: The LifeStraw is close to eradicating an ancient disease

The LifeStraw uses technology to filter out water contaminants such as parasites, bacteria, viruses and lead, to make dirty water drinkable. Other than being a handy tool to have on a camping trip, the straw has gained worldwide attention as a result of Vestergaard's work with former US President Jimmy Carter's foundation, the Carter Center. The center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program takes aim at a parasitic infection caused when someone drinks water that contains water fleas infected with Guinea worm larvae.


Since 1986, the program has used health education and water filtering to battle the disease and has successfully decreased the number of infections from 3.5 million down to 53 in 2019. If the effort achieves complete success, Guinea worm disease will be the first to be eradicated from the planet without the use of a vaccine.

Update from LifeStraw: LifeStraw has provided over 38 million Guinea worm filters to the Carter Center since 1994.  More recently, the company made the commitment to donate all future Guinea worm filters to the Center through the end of disease eradication.  In 2019, 520,000 Guinea worm filters were donated.

CNET news producer Stephen Beacham spoke with representatives from LifeStraw and the Carter Center to discuss the origins of the LifeStraw, the technology behind it and how it's helped in the battle to end Guinea worm disease. Watch the video above for all the details.

WARNING: Some viewers may find certain images in the video disturbing.


Former US President Jimmy Carter comforting a girl who has a Guinea worm infection.

The Carter Center

Watch the LifeStraw video on CNET's YouTube channel below.