Low-Cost, Life-Saving Infant Breathing Device for the Developing World

Respiratory distress claims the lives of about one million African newborns each year. A low-cost device invented by Rice University bioengineering students to help premature babies breathe more easily will be rolled out to teaching hospitals in three African nations, thanks to a $400,000 innovation award from GlaxoSmithKline and London-based charity Save the Children. The technology is a low-cost version of continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, a standard feature of most neonatal units in the developed world. With a price around $6,000, conventional CPAP machines are too expensive for hospitals in the developing world. The new low-cost device has two main components: one is a flow generator that pumps air through a tube and allows clinicians to add oxygen if needed. The tube goes from the generator to the infant, who breathes through nasal prongs, and then to the second component, a water bottle that serves as a regulator.