Doctor's Shampoo Bottle Respirator Has Cut Mortality Rates By 75%

September 7, 2018

A doctor in Bangladesh has invented an artificial respirator out of a shampoo bottle and it's saving thousands of children's lives.

doctor invents shampoo bottle ventilator
Credit: BBC

Last year 920,000 children under the age of five died of pneumonia, mostly in poor countries without access to expensive medical care. It is particularly threatening to malnourished children. In Bangladesh pneumonia causes 28% of infant mortality.

Dr. Mohammod Jobayer Chisti knew he had to find a better solution to get oxygen to infants and children.

On a recent work trip to Melbourne, Australia, Dr. Chisti was introduced to a type of ventilator called a bubble-CPAP, which is employed to help premature babies breathe. It channels the infant's exhaled breath through a tube that has its far end immersed in water. The exhaled breath emerges from the tube as bubbles. The pressure from the bubbles keeps the small air sacs of the lungs open.

But the price for a standard bubble-CPAP is far too expensive for poor hospitals.

So Dr. Chisti decided to create his own, using a discarded shampoo bottle that contained leftover bubbles, an oxygen supply and some tubing.

And it worked.

"We tested it on four or five patients at random. We saw a significant improvement within a few hours," Dr. Chisti said.

The hospital where he practices now deploys the device routinely and the number of children who die there from pneumonia has fallen by 75 percent.

The device has also cut the hospital's spending on pneumonia treatment by nearly 90%. The materials needed to make his ventilator cost $1.25.

Now Dr. Chisti plans to introduce his invention to other poor-country hospitals. His team is about to start trials of the new ventilator in a group of hospitals in Ethiopia.

Dr. Chisti says his goal is for every hospital in developing countries to have the CPAP device available to them.

"On that day, we can say that pneumonia-related mortality is near zero," he said.

Sources: Economist, BBC

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