Mexican experts design ventilator that works without electricity

AMBUDEM-2020 aims to provide an alternative for the fight against coronavirus

COVID-19: Mexican experts design affordable ventilator that works without electricity
English 28/04/2020 16:59 Mexico City Aline Espinosa Actualizada 20:56
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Mechatronics Engineering students of the University of Monterrey (UDEM) in Nuevo León, Mexico, have designed AMBUDEM-2020,  a ventilator that works without electricity in patients with mild COVID-19 cases.

The development of AMBUDEM is thanks to the work of Andrés González, Sergio Caballero, Omar Beltrán, Víctor Cárdenas and their tutor Raúl Quintero, who got their inspiration from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology's ventilator to treat pneumonia and modified it.

“The original idea was to build a ventilator with Mexican components but during its development, we had very good ideas and the design changed a lot,” explains Hussein de la Torre, director of the UDEM’s  Mechatronics and Robotics major.

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AMBUDEM has a simple structure made of PVC piping, a stainless steel engine, an ambu bag, and other materials such as screws, that do not surpass MXN $2,000 so that it can be mass-produced and modified by any person at a low cost.

All these pieces are classified into two: electronic and mechanic. All of them can be built in at least 16 hours. Moreover, they are of free use and easy to find.

The Mexican team adds that a traditional ventilator costs around USD $20,000 and it takes longer to build.

Meanwhile, they say, AMBUDEM has the advantage of working manually and with a 12 volts battery for areas without electricity or in an emergency situation. This allows doctors not to decide which patient will use a ventilator. According to Hussein de la Torre, Mexico needs 45,000 ventilators.

According to the team, this invention allows to reduce the number of medical personnel in charge of insufflation tasks and reduces the risk of infection because the device emulates the work of a doctor by pressing the ambu bag.

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Once the COVID-19 contingency is controlled, AMBUDEM can be used for other kinds of respiratory diseases. Its lifespan is long as long as “the belts and the screws are regularly monitored,” says Omar Beltrán.

As of April 28, Mexico has 15,529 COVID-19 cases and 1,434 deaths.

Ventilator on the making
The team explains that they faced some obstacles during the development of AMBUDEUM including learning medical language, keeping the equipment at a low cost, and working over eight consecutive hours with few tools at the UDEM laboratories.

They decided to halt the automation project they were developing for a local company in  Nuevo León to focus only on the ventilator with the help of UDEM doctors who were in charge of verifying that the invention had scientific support.

“We worked in improvements and, in order to have an objective opinion, we invited emergency chiefs and experts in respiratory physiology to see the equipment and share their thoughts with us,” says Jesús Daniel López Tapia, head of the UDEM’s Medicine School.

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So far, the ventilator has not been used in a patient with COVID-19 but it has gone under several trials with dummies that simulate different pulmonary emphysemas since the new coronavirus affects every patient in a different way.

The team has already begun the certification process with the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS). They wish to make available all the schemes for the equipment and thus give the population options to recover from COVID-19.

COFEPRIS asked for the ventilators to comply with a  breathing rate, a ventilation mode, and other requirements, as well as a handbook that helps to understand their operation.

“It’s a race against time because if the virus spreads as expected, there will be a high demand for these devices and there will not be enough. It’s better to have them and not use them than to need them and not have them” says Raúl Quintero.

He adds that AMBUDEM’s pieces can be disinfected or sanitized with alcohol and that the ambu bag can be replaced in less than 20 minutes, so the same equipment can be used in different patients.

“Although a ventilator can help save a patient’s life, it must be stressed that it is not comfortable and that its use is not exempt from risks and complications and that, of course, it does not cure the disease but it is a part of the treatment,” says Itzel Díaz.

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This initiative called the attention of businessmen and academics who want to support the production of the ventilator with materials and workforce so that they can be donated to public hospitals in Nuevo León: the equipment still does not have a fixed cost.

López Tapia thinks that this labor will help with the shortage of medical equipment in the health sector. “We will all get sick at some point but we must not be sick at the same time. The number of infections will be lower and we will not collapse [the health system] if we follow the recommendations.”

For the team, their invention shows “that Mexican creativity can solve problems and [help] overcome catastrophes.” They hope their work inspires other students to use their knowledge for the battle against coronavirus.

“Just as we developed this project. We wish this helps to awaken the creativity of other people and that there are more ways to solve the current situation,” stressed Andrés González.

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