A doctor in Bangladesh has found a surprisingly simple way to treat infant pneumonia.
Mohamad Chisti watched 3 children die of pneumonia on his 1st night as a trainee paediatrician. So he fashioned an artificial respirator out of shampoo bottles which is routinely deployed in his hospital resulting in a 75% drop in Infant deaths. #MakeADifference #MohamadChisti pic.twitter.com/LkoKPxicvW— Anupam Thareja (@reach_anupam) September 9, 2018
The World Health Organization guidelines for low-income countries recommend delivering oxygen through the “low-flow” technique. According to Chisti, this technique, which entails using a face mask or tubes placed near the nostrils instead of expensive ventilators did not really work.
He recalled seeing a bubble-CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ventilator made to help premature babies breathe when he worked in Australia. The bubble-CPAP directs an infant’s exhaled breath through a tube that’s partly submerged in water and can cost up to $15,000. It must also be operated by specially-trained staff. After stumbling upon a shampoo bottle with some leftover bubbles in it, Chisti realized that he might be able to recreate a bubble-CPAP ventilator. He managed to pull his invention off using an oxygen supply, some tubing, and a water-filled plastic bottle.
Chisti’s device is made to reduce a patient’s effort to breathe in a cheap, yet more efficient way. Chisti’s ventilator only costs $1.25 USD, instead of the hefty $15,000 USD. It also requires way less oxygen which helps lower steep hospital gas bills.
Chisti first presented his discovery to the Dhaka Hospital of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in 2015. The hospital has since used Chisti’s plastic bottle method and the number of infants dying from pneumonia has decreased by three-quarters. The survival rate in Dhaka Hospital is now almost the same as in other wealthier facilities using expensive ventilators around the globe. Chisti reports his invention has also dramatically decreased the hospital’s spending on pneumonia treatment.
Even though pneumonia kills more children than any other disease in the world, it receives the least funding. In 2017, a total of 920,000 children under the age of five died of pneumonia, making it the most common cause of death for that group, according to the Economist. In Chisti’s home country of Bangladesh, the rate is even higher, causing 28% of infant mortality, especially among malnourished children.
So far, about 600 children have benefited from Chisti's inexpensive life-saving device. Dr. Chisti has been promoted and is now head of clinical research at his hospital, but he still plays with the children on the ward. He says that he will be content only when each and every hospital in developing countries have the CPAP device to treat infants with pneumonia and save their lives.
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