Innovative new PPE respirator design could provide a breakthrough in fight against COVID-19

University staff and frontline medical workers have combined to design and test a new type of respirator to keep healthcare professionals safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff in the Intensive Care Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) have developed Bubble PAPR, a Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR), to keep healthcare workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This simple and low-cost device consists of a reusable collar that sits around the neck and a single-use plastic hood that can be easily recycled. The collar contains a fan to draw in air through a virus filter and deliver a cooling airflow around the face.

Bubble PAPR has been designed to be compatible with stringent infection control practices and be comfortable to wear for the duration of a shift in the ICU, or other high-risk areas. The wearer’s face is clearly visible, improving critical communication between staff and vastly improving the patient experience.

Dr Brendan McGrath, Intensive Care Consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital, has been the clinical lead through the development and testing process. He said: “We have tested Bubble PAPR and we know it performs its primary function which is to protect staff against inhalation of airborne viruses.

“We have also now tested it in the simulated clinical environment. The reaction from staff has been overwhelmingly positive: they saw something that was not restrictive on their face, that allowed them to communicate with their colleagues, that was pleasant to wear and will allow them to interact with their patients.”

The Bubble PAPR is part of an ongoing collaboration between MFT, Designing Science and The University of Manchester to identify unmet clinical needs and work collaboratively to develop new solutions.

Patrick Hall, MD of Designing Science, added: “Most current PAPRs are re-purposed industrial devices, not designed for clinical use and expensive. We have taken a user centred design approach to engineer and develop the Bubble PAPR to be as simple as possible while meeting key functional and ergonomic requirements.

“This means it can be easily and cheaply manufactured in large volumes so it can be made available right across the healthcare system, wherever clinical and support staff are interacting with patients who have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 or other serious infections.”

Dr Glen Cooper, Program Director for Mechanical Engineering Design, School of Engineering, The University of Manchester, said: “The Bubble PAPR is both ergonomically and mechanically the right product to meet the need to protect NHS staff during the COVID crisis and beyond.”

A patent has been filed and the development team are now working with manufacturing partners to produce Bubble PAPR in large volumes and signing up distribution partners. The aim is to have Bubble PAPR widely available for front line staff, before the end of 2020.

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