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    CU Doctors Unveil Negative Pressure Cabinets for Collecting Specimens from COVID-19 Patients

    Doctors from the Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University have created the “Negative pressure cabinet” for collecting specimens from patients infected with COVID-19. The invention allows medical staff to safely collect respiratory secretions from the throat and nasal cavities and avoid direct contact with patients. The COVID-19 virus is transmittable via droplets, which may spread while talking, sneezing or coughing, within a distance of 1-2 meters. To collect a specimen, a sample must be taken from the inner throat or nose area. This may stimulate the patient to sneeze or cough, spreading germs in the air over a wide area and is difficult to control. Unfortunately, the negative pressure room for collecting a specimen from patients requires a large investment and cannot be provided in every hospital, so the pressure cabinets will be useful.

    As more patients become infected with COVID-19, the jobs of medical staff responsible for screening patients at various hospitals have become more demanding.  Even large hospitals do not have enough negative pressure rooms.

    Dr. Pasurachate Samorn, from the Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, revealed that during the COVID-19 situation, collecting the specimen from patients by medical staff at the least risk is vital. The Faculty of Medicine has developed the negative pressure cabinet that complies with the standards of specimen storage, effectively prevents the proliferation of germs, and can be moved around easily. The cabinet is made from 15 mm thick acrylic sheets, which is resistant to antiseptics, clear and can be seen from the outside. Inside the cabinet is an air cleaner with HEPA filter, the best grade filter, which can capture 99.995% of small particles as a virus. The UV-C light disinfection installed makes sure the virus loses its disease-causing ability.  Compared to N95 masks that can filter particles of 0.3 microns, this cabinet is more than a 1 ,000 times more efficient for virus prevention.

    The negative pressure cabinet for collecting specimens is now used at the COVID-19 ward at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital and can be moved around, reducing the risk of infection among medical staff.

    Dr. Pasurachate said that patients should not worry about the risk of cross-contamination from patient to patient since the particle filter will clean the air in the cabinet and the cabinet is sterilized by UV-C light.  Besides, after every use, the cabinet will be wiped down and sprayed with alcohol.  To date, eight cabinets, out of the total 50 cabinets, are in use at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.  10 cabinets will be used at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, and the rest will be distributed to various hospitals, including Yala Hospital, Pattani Hospital, and Queen Savang Vadhana Memorial Hospital. At the cost of 100,000 baht per unit, each is sponsored by the TCP group.  Also, the idea is open for anyone interested in producing or improving the cabinet for further medical use.”

    This cabinet is a collaboration between the Department of Surgery and the Infectious Disease Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, by using materials produced and readily available in the country. Once the COVID-19 crisis is resolved, the cabinet can be used in the long term to collect specimens for other respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis and influenza.  However, we are facing a shortage of medical equipment at the moment. If anyone has the potential to do so, let us all help and pitch in.  Nevertheless, initially consulting with doctors and actual users is the best way to ensure safety”, Dr. Pasurachate concluded.

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