The global battle against tuberculosis (TB) is being complicated by the spread of drug-resistant strains of the bacteria responsible for the disease. These strains have emerged largely as a result of inadequate treatment of TB, as well as poor control of infections in healthcare facilities. TB is highly contagious.
Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis, also known as MDR-TB, is a variation of TB that does not respond to the standard first-line antibiotics isoniazid and rifampicin – the two most powerful anti-TB drugs on the market. Extensively Drug-Resistant TB, XDR-TB, is another, more serious form of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, with additional resistance to more anti-TB drugs. The success rate for treatment of MDR-TB is less than 50%, while the success rate for treatment of XDR-TB is even lower, at just 20%. South Africa has the highest number of cases of XDR-TB in the world.
The World Health Organisation has identified prevention of new cases as one of the key methods of combating the spread of MDR-TB and XDR-TB. In order to do that, there is an urgent need to improve infection control in hospitals and clinics. At the same time, research into the drug-resistant strains of TB needs to be bolstered in order to develop new medicines and improve outlooks for patients.
In January 2014, a prominent MDR-TB research academic commissioned a prototype of sputum collection booth, covering both of the above bases. Sputum collection booths are commonly used in healthcare facilities to safely collect sputum samples from patients for diagnostic and research purposes.
The special booth we were asked to design needed to house purpose-built monitoring and sampling devices necessary for the collection of data and research specimens. It also needed to provide the correct chamber environment to allow the research to take place while patients remain comfortable and research personnel are protected from the bacteria. We were able to create a custom concept design, which was accepted by the MDR-TB research academic.
For infection control, our highly specialised sputum collection booth is equipped with a speed-controlled double inlet centrifugal fan, which draws Hepa (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filtered air into the chamber through a supply diffuser above the patient, and discharges the air through a low-level discharge grill at their feet. The discharge grill is also fitted with a Hepa filter. These filters – the gold standard in medical facilities - are essential in preventing the spread of airborne germs like the TB bacteria.
The turnaround time on the manufacture of our custom sputum collection booths was quick; 10 weeks after approval of the design, the booths had been produced and delivered to their site, and the research team had begun installing their hardware.
We are proud of these booths. The design is unique, the manufacture, local, and the impact potentially profound. They are being used by an international team of researchers in the fight against drug-resistant TB; a fight that must be won.
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