Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers at the University of Southampton have been working to play their part in the fight against COVID-19. They have been developing personal respirators, designed for use by doctors and nurses on the frontline. And now, thanks to alumni and the public, donations to the Southampton Coronavirus Response Fund have hit over half a million pounds, allowing for further development of this respirator and the ability to bring it to key workers on the frontline.
This respirator (PeRSo) was developed to tackle the risk that doctors and nurses face when exposed to a higher ‘viral load’. This exposure means that they would be more at risk of contracting a more serious illness. It is essential to keep these key workers safe and protected from COVID-19, so that they can continue to provide medical support and care to those who need it. Throughout the pandemic, there have been reports about the lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in this country and all over the world, due to the high demand from all health services. This is where the development of alternatives, including respirators, is required.
Most respiratory support systems are, however, uncomfortable, expensive or simply unavailable. Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a prototype for an alternative respirator, unlike the others. Their respirator is designed to be lightweight and portable, meaning that medical workers could wear them for 8-9 hours constantly, yet comfortably. It consists of a fabric hood with a clear plastic visor attached via a tube to a battery-powered fan pack mounted on a belt. Clean air will be delivered to the hood through a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter from the fan pack. The first preliminary tests have been carried out successfully and now the respirators will be trialled in hospital to obtain feedback. At the moment, it is still at a prototype stage and not available, but the design has been made available so that other manufacturers can develop and produce their own version.
All of this development has happened over the last 3 months, following the announcement of the global pandemic. Simultaneously, the Southampton Coronavirus Response Fund was set up and since then donations have been pouring in. Donations have been made by alumni, local schools and supporters from all over the world, with people donating from as little as £5 to thousands of pounds to even hundreds of thousand of pounds. Recently, a donation from two alumni of the University, husband and wife Stefan Cross QC and Dr Alison Steele, of over £168,000 was made. This significant donation brings the overall total to £515, 301 from 1,172 donors, at time of writing.