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By Subrina Jesmin Arai MD, Ph.D.

Since December 2019, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has become a pandemic, taking a toll on multiple industries, lives, and health systems. Ever since the onset of the pandemic, people belonging to different professions have been involved in a race to find a safe and better way to protect themselves from the virus.

One of the latest innovations in this race is a protective plastic capsule. These capsules have been modeled after neonatal chambers. If you’ve never seen one before, let’s take a quick look.

A neonatal chamber can protect newborn babies from bacteria and viruses. The neonatal chamber was made to transport sick neonates to a surgical center as surgical care is not readily available in developing countries. As such, it’s not feasible to have expectations about getting proper neonatal transport amenities. You may ask, accurate, why were neonatal chambers made when we already had neonatal transport incubators? Well, incubators are expensive and occupy a lot of space. However, a neonatal chamber can be made easily at any health center. These chambers contain a thermacoal cushioning on the inside. This acts as a shock absorber as well as an insulator.

A Mexican company named XE Medical Engineering has taken a similar approach to protect civilians . In fact, they have altered the product and created an isolation capsule. This capsule keeps pathogens in their place. The idea is to lower the possibility of the pathogens to spread to healthcare workers.

Figure : Using a protective capsule to prevent the virus from spreading

As mentioned above, the capsule has been inspired by neonatal chambers. It is sealed and is also flexible. In addition, this capsule includes a filter system to keep the equipment inflated.

The company’s representatives stated that this device could be used inside ambulances, hospital wards, and even emergency rooms. This device can also be used by individuals who are living with infected individuals. Fernando Alves, the engineering director of XE Medical Engineering, stated that their main aim to protect their personnel.

There are certain similarities between the protective plastic capsule and the respiratory isolation box. The isolation box is a negative pressure chamber that does not allow air to escape the box, but air can flow in and successfully isolate patients infected by the virus. This is meant to prevent the respiratory droplets of patients from scattering in the air outside the chamber.

The design for the respiratory isolation box should make it possible for three clinicians to work on a patient at the same time. They are also running tests on the box’s internal dimensions to ensure that healthcare workers are still able to use the device to intubate an infected person.

Substantial effort is ongoing to create equipment that can safeguard healthcare workers as they continue to treat infected patients with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases every day. There is a strong possibility that the protective plastic capsule is going to allow medical workers to treat these patients safely. If it can reduce the chance of the virus spreading to the healthcare workers, then it will be considered a success.

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