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Doctor uses shampoo bottles to save babies from pneumonia

After two decades of research, Doctor Mohamad Chisti figured out how an affordable plastic bottle device could provide oxygen to children with pneumonia in 2017.

After two decades of research, Doctor Mohamad Chisti figured out how an affordable plastic bottle device could provide oxygen to children with pneumonia in 2017. 

The doctor is bringing his innovation to a group of Ethiopian hospitals soon. If all goes well, he plans to help hospitals around the world lower the infant pneumonia mortality rate, which accounts for 16% of infant deaths. 

Doctor Chisti was driven to start this idea when he couldn’t stand watching another infant die of pneumonia in Bangladesh due to the lack of efficient ventilators. 

Chisti told BBC in 2017, about a traumatizing hospital shift in 1996, “It was my first night as an intern and three children died before my eyes. I felt so helpless that I cried,”

He was inspired by seeing a bubble-CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ventilator made to help premature babies breathe in Australia, Chisti was motivated to create a low-flow technique alternative on his own. The bubble-CPAP directs an infant’s exhaled breath through a tube that’s partly submerged in water, and usually costs about $6,000 USD. 

After coming across a shampoo bottle with some leftover bubbles in it, Chisti suspected he’d be able to recreate a bubble-CPAP ventilator. He managed to pull his invention off using an oxygen supply, some tubing, and a plastic bottle filled with water. 

Chisti’s device is made to reduce a patient’s effort to breathe in a cheap yet more efficient way. Even though plastic bottles aren’t usually made of the most sustainable materials, Chisti’s ventilator only costs $1.25 USD, versus the usual $15,000 USD. It also requires using way less oxygen which helps lower steep hospital gas bills. 

Chisti first presented his discovery to the Dhaka Hospital of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in 2015. The hospital has since used Chisti’s plastic bottle method and seen the number of infants who die from pneumonia decreased by three-quarters. 

The survival rate in Dhaka Hospital is almost the same as in other wealthier facilities using expensive ventilators around the globe. Chisti reports his invention has decreased the hospital’s spending on pneumonia treatment by nearly 90%.

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