In less than a week, a respiratory aid was created that can help keep patients with coronavirus in intensive care.
Engineers from University College London worked with UCLH and Mercedes Formula 1 clinicians to build the device, which transports oxygen to the lungs without the need for a ventilator.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices are already used in hospitals but are in short supply.
China and Italy have used them to help Covid-19 patients.
Forty of the new devices have been delivered to ULCH and three other London hospitals. If the tests go well, Mercedes-AMG-HPP can produce up to 1,000 cars per day, starting from a week.
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already given its approval for their use.
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Professor Rebecca Shipley, director of the UCL Sanitary Engineering Institute, told the BBC: “Normally the development of medical devices would take years, but we did it in days because we went back to a simple existing device and” we reverse engineered it. “to be able to produce them quickly and on a large scale”.
Reverse engineering means that they have dismantled an existing off-patent CPAP device, copied and improved the design and adapted for mass production.
The first news from Lombardy in Italy suggests that about 50% of patients treated with CPAP avoided the need for invasive mechanical ventilation.
UCL intensive care consultant Professor Mervyn Singer said: “These devices are halfway between a simple oxygen mask and invasive mechanical ventilation that requires patient sedation.
“They will help save lives by ensuring that fans, a limited resource, are used only for the most seriously ill.”
How does CPAP work?
It pushes a constant flow of air-oxygen mixture into the mouth and nose of patients.
This is done under pressure, which means that the lungs remain open and therefore the amount of oxygen that enters them increases.
This reduces the effort required to inhale, especially when the alveoli – the air pockets in the lungs – have collapsed due to Covid-19.
Unlike a simple face mask connected to an oxygen supply, CPAP delivers air and oxygen under pressure, therefore it is necessary to have a mask that creates an airtight seal on the patient’s face, mouth and nose or a transparent cap over the head.
This is less invasive than a ventilator, for which patients must be heavily sedated and have a tube inserted in their airways.
But a cautionary note was issued by Duncan Young, Prof. of Intensive Care Medicine, University of Oxford, who said: “The use of CPAP machines in patients with contagious respiratory infections is somewhat controversial as any small losses around the mask could spray droplets of secretions to clinical staff. “
The professor. Mervyn Singer said that if an airtight seal is maintained on the mask or, even better, a helmet is worn and the clinical staff have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), this risk would be minimized.
More than 2,000 Covid-19 patients are receiving CPAP in general wards in Lombardy.
Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, said: “The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the request for support … we were proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the project CPAP to the highest standards and in the shortest possible time “.
In addition to Mercedes F1, the collaboration also included Oxford Optronix, a small company that produced oxygen monitors for the devices.