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Covid-19

NASA Engineers in Pasadena Build Advanced Ventilator for COVID-19 Patients

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To assist in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena have created a high-pressure ventilator prototype. This machine is specifically designed to provide help to COVID-19 patients, as stated by the agency

The system is called Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, or VITAL, the technology has just passed an important test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. In the days ahead, NASA is hoping for a fast-track approval of the ventilator so it can be used to help critical coronavirus patients. 

The prototype operates like traditional ventilators, where sedated patients depend on an oxygen tube to help them breathe. The prototype is built to last three to four months, contrary to ventilators in hospitals that were designed to last for years to provide aid for patients with other medical conditions. Engineers of the prototype hope that traditional ventilators can be reserved for patients with severe symptoms from the coronavirus if VITAL is put into place. 

The advanced ventilator was also built to provide more oxygen at higher pressures than other models. According to Dr. Levin, who stated some of his patients needed that specific capability from the devices.

The agency stated engineers at JPL designed the ventilator to be easily built using fewer parts, a majority of them available in current supply chains. The purpose of the ventilator is not meant to compete with other exiting supply chains for ventilators. The VITAL machine is also designed to be adaptable with easy maintenance. It can be used in other settings hosting field settings, such as hotels and convention centers.

In addition to building a ventilator to help COVID-19 patients, NASA is also trying to help provide medical equipment in local communities like Antelope Valley, California.  Another helpful device is the Aerospace Valley Positive Helmet, which can be used to help treat coronavirus patients experiencing minor symptoms instead of using a ventilator. The helmet functions more like a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, a machine more commonly used to treat sleep apnea, according to the agency. The device has already been tested successfully and submitted to the FDA for emergency use authorization, while 500 are currently in production. 

The unit is the product of a collaborative partnership between NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and Antelope Valley Hospital, the city of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, Antelope Valley College, and personnel of the Antelope Valley Task Force

Previously the NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio teamed up with Emergency Products and Research, based in Ohio, to develop small portable devices that could disinfect ambulances quickly and cost-effectively known as AMBUStat. Both companies are looking to apply to the same methods during this pandemic as well. 

From 3D printed masks to protect health care professionals to NASA developing ventilators for COVID-19 patients, companies across the nation are stepping up to provide assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sources: 

  1. https://abc7.com/nasa-ventilator-jpl-jet-propulsion-laboratory-ventilators/6133594/
  2. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/03/27/3d-printing-to-help-with-surgical-mask-shortage/

Covid-19

WOH Series Part 2: Current treatments for COVID-19

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Patients diagnosed with the coronavirus are receiving different care depending on the severity of their symptoms. Current healthcare facilities are in clinical trials with possible antiviral drugs that could be used as a treatment, such as remdesivir. Even plasma from recovered patients is being considered for a potential treatment for COVID-19 patients. If respiratory problems caused by the virus persist, healthcare professionals are turning to ventilators to help patients breathe and fight for their lives. Researchers are currently evaluating the effectiveness of these treatments to determine which care is suited for various patients with mild to severe symptoms. 

One drug that is the furthest along in clinical trials for treating COVID-19 is remdesivir. Researchers are also testing older medications that are typically used to treat other conditions to see if they are also useful in treating COVID-19. 

Remdesivir

This antiviral drug is administered by intravenous (IV) infusion in the hospital. Remdesivir is a new drug that has been given an “emergency use authorization.” Previously, the drug showed to have some effect against SARS, MERS, and Ebola in cell and animal models

Based on the positive reports from studies, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for remdesivir on May 1, 2020. The EUA does not mean that the FDA has approved remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. Instead, the EUA intends to make it easier for doctors to get remdesivir for hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms. These are patients who require mechanical ventilation or extra oxygen

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are two medications that have been used to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Some studies suggest that both medicines may also help treat hospitalized patients with mild cases of COVID-19. In contrast, other studies showed that hydroxychloroquine did not make a difference. Based on what we now know, the risks of heart problems and other issues appear to outweigh the benefits relative to treating COVID-19. More comprehensive studies are needed to confirm whether these medications work in treating COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma

On March 24, 2020, the FDA issued an Emergency Investigational New Drug (eIND) for convalescent plasma to treat people with COVID-19. Plasma is the liquid part of blood that carries blood cells. Currently, antibodies containing plasma from a recovered patient are given by transfusion to a patient suffering from COVID-19. The donor antibodies help the patient fight the illness, possibly reducing the length or lessening the severity of the disease.

In China, ten adults with severe COVID-19 symptoms were given convalescent plasma. The researchers reported that all symptoms (such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain) had significantly improved within three days. Still, it is not widely available since healthcare centers have just recently begun collecting it.

Ventilators

Patients with increased respiratory complications, healthcare professionals are turning to ventilators to help patients breathe. Ventilators are used for patients that can no longer breathe and need the machine to help provide oxygenation. In short, a ventilator takes over the body’s breathing process when the disease has caused the lungs to fail. This gives the patient time to fight off the infection and time to recover. There are two types of medical ventilators that can be used to treat patients. 

Graphic showing two common types of medical ventilation

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How is the ventilator used? 

In severe cases, the virus can cause damage to the lungs, prompting the body’s oxygen levels to drop, making it harder to breathe. A ventilator pushes air with increased levels of oxygen into the lungs to alleviate these problems. The ventilator has a humidifier, adding heat and moisture to the air supply matching the patient’s body temperature.

Patients are given medication to stay sedated and help relax the respiratory muscles to tolerate the discomfort from the ventilators. 

Timeline of Ventilators

The average timeline of ventilators is two to three weeks, possibly even longer, when a COVID-19 patient requires mechanical ventilation support. Some individuals could require a tracheostomy, where a tube is inserted in the opening of one’s neck rather than down the windpipe. Doctors must consider whether a ventilator’s complications are worth it in giving the patient enough time to recover from COVID-19, which can take weeks on the machine.

Possible Complications 

The pressure from a ventilator can make a patient’s lungs collapse or increase the risk of pneumonia. Gradually, doctors use reduced volumes of oxygen with lower pressure to limit injury to patients. However, ventilators are still “not completely safe and harm-free,” says Dr. David Hill, a pulmonary and critical care physician and board member of the American Lung Association.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation usually involves physical and occupational therapy to help patients get up and to move again. Eventually, a patient will begin transitioning to either home or a rehabilitation facility to start the recovery process after being taken off the ventilator. The recovery process varies for each patient, and older individuals with existing medical conditions could have a longer recovery period

Though COVID-19 is still relatively new, researchers are still conducting studies such as clinical trials, to determine which treatment is effective for patients with mild to severe symptoms. 

Sources: 

  1. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/03/12/can-blood-plasma-be-used-to-treat-coronavirus/
  2. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/05/14/how-does-covid-19-affect-the-lungs/
  3. https://www.goodrx.com/blog/coronavirus-treatments-on-the-way/
  4. https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/fda-warns-about-hydroxychloroquine-chloroquine-covid-19
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/treatments-for-covid-19
  6. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-clinical-trial-shows-remdesivir-accelerates-recovery-advanced-covid-19
  7. https://www.fda.gov/media/137565/download
  8. https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200415/ventilators-helping-or-harming-covid-19-patients#1
  9. https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/investigational-new-drug-ind-or-device-exemption-ide-process-cber/recommendations-investigational-covid-19-convalescent-plasma
  10. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/04/02/2004168117
  11. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52036948
  12. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/why-ventilators-are-increasingly-seen-as-a-final-measure-with-covid-19
  13. https://www.healthline.com/health/tracheostomy

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Covid-19

Orange County COVID-19 cases May 18

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Several North Orange Country cities continue to serve as the hotspot as coronavirus cases continue to increase in Orange County. For new cases, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange, and Buena Park produced half of all new cases from last week. 

A new update on Monday, May 18, 59 new cases were reported bringing the total in Orange County to 4,434, and 461 are from senior living residents and 350 from jail inmates. There were no new deaths reported Monday and the total number of deaths within the county remains at 88. Of the total deaths, 21 were people living in skilled nursing facilities.

With 24 of 25 hospitals reporting, there were 194 people in Orange County hospitalized due to the virus with 78 patients in intensive care units. On an average 1,595 people were tested each day, a reduction from 2,715 the previous week and 2,199 from the week before. Another 166 tests for the coronavirus were given on the last day, bringing the collective testing total to 80,533 in the county of 3.2 million people. For the county to reopen, the county is expected to report 1.5 tests per 1,000 residents each day.

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Sources: 

  1. https://www.ocbj.com/news/2020/may/18/covid-19-hotspots-oc/
  2. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/05/18/coronavirus-orange-county-reported-no-new-deaths-for-may-18/

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Covid-19

Coronavirus Antibody Testing is Coming to Orange County

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Orange County officials are working with UC Irvine to study how many people have been infected with COVID-19. Researchers will examine blood samples of 5,000 people for antibodies from COVID-19 to understand how many people have contracted the disease throughout the county. 

This month, samples that represent the county population will be examined, and eight to ten drive-through sites will be set up. Pin-prick tests will also be administered to collect blood and sent to UCI for an analysis of the blood samples.

Similar tests have already begun in Los Angeles, and Santa Clara counties, and the number of infections was more significant than the number of confirmed cases. Officials conducting the Orange County examinations expect to have the same result. 

Contrary to the testing administered in Los Angeles and Santa Clara, the UCI study is intended to be more extensive and rigorous by testing more individuals than the other two studies. Researchers will go to the homes of those who cannot go to the drive-through sites and try to reach under-served communities. These efforts will help to have better estimates of disease prevalence by age and race/ethnicity. To observe how subjects’ immune responses change, researchers will follow some subjects over time. 

The director and founding dean for UCI’s Program in Public Health Bernadette Boden-Albala is leading the effort with Tim-Allen Bruckner, an associate professor. The study costs about 1.5 million, the proposal says, and is the largest of three surveillance studies currently in the works at UCI. 

The LRW Group, who led the sample for Los Angeles study, has email, mobile, and land-line information for more than 800,000 adults in Orange County. The LRW Group will be charged with pulling together the sample of 5,000 people that represents the Orange County population. 

Researchers are in the process of finalizing, which finger-prick test to use, and hope to begin testing in the next couple of weeks. After data is collected, the results will be analyzed and aim to be ready for publication by fall. The study will consist of about 200 participants who have tested positive to COVID-19 or for antibodies. The participants will have blood drawn every two weeks over four months

This surveillance study will be sent to the County Board of Supervisors to inform how long to continue restrictive public health measures, identify who is at high risk for the disease, and understand the persistence of the duration of immunological responses

Sources:

  1. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/05/14/rigorous-coronavirus-antibody-testing-coming-to-o-c/
  2. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/05/11/cedars-sinai-expert-weighs-in-on-uncertainty-over-coronavirus-antibodies/

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