Technology made by Rice students helps babies struggling to breathe
The first clinical study of a low-cost neonatal breathing system created by Rice University bioengineering students demonstrated that the device increased the survival rate of newborns with severe respiratory illness from 44 percent to 71 percent.
The results, which were published online in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, came from a 10-month study of 87 patients at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi. Based on data from the study, it is estimated that treatment with low-cost "bubble CPAP" could save the lives of 178,000 low-birth-weight babies in Africa each year.
The researchers found that premature infants with complications like sepsis, very low birth weight and respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) benefited most from the new technology. Survival rates more than doubled for babies with RDS and more than tripled for babies in the other two categories after treatment with bubble CPAP. The technology is a low-cost version of the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) systems that are a standard feature of most neonatal units in the developed world.