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Saving Preemies

August 27, 2015

A medical device built with aquarium pumps saves lives in developing countries.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

journal.pone.0086327.s001

A premature baby receives positive airflow from a low-cost CPAP machine. (Kawaza, et al., PLoSOne/CC BY-4.0)

A low-cost answer to premature infant death. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of premature infants die because they don’t have access to six-thousand dollar CPAP machines to help them breath. That’s why Rice University bioengineer Rebecca Richards-Kortum led a team of students who designed their own version that costs just $150, and uses inexpensive aquarium pumps to provide airflow.

REBECCA RICHARDS-KORTUM (Rice University):

They just did some really good basic engineering in how do you build a device that does exactly what it needs to do, but not any more.

HIRSHON:

A study in Malawi showed the machines increased infant survival rates from 24% to 65%.

RICHARDS-KORTUM:

And that’s actually very similar to the improvement in survival that was seen when CPAP was introduced in the United States in the 1970s.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.