Local arm of Japanese vehicle maker Nissan and the University of Pretoria (UP) have partnered to create and manufacture INTUboxes.
The INTUbox is a transparent vessel-box which protects health professionals who have to intubate and treat acutely ill Covid-19 patients.
The box avoids viral droplets spreading to the attending health professionals by containing droplets inside the box, significantly reducing the risk of exposure.
The box is an innovation by a team of medical professionals associated with the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, in Johannesburg.
After recognising the need to protect frontline health care officers, who are more at risk of contracting Covid-19, Nissan and UP’s Faculty of Health Sciences partnered to develop and manufacture their own iteration of the boxes.
“At Nissan, we’re proud to [produce] this urgent and dramatic measure to delay the spread of the virus,” says Nissan South Africa MD Shinkichi Izumi.
“Our health workers are at the heart of this fight, displaying courage and unwavering commitment while caring for patients.”
Prof Veronica Ueckermann, head of the Covid-19 response team and adjunct professor at the UP Department of Internal Medicine and Steve Biko Academic Hospital, says that 15 INTUboxes have been donated to medical facilities to date.
Each INTU box intubates one patient at a time.
“Two intubating stations are available in the emergency department at Steve Biko Academic Hospital (tent and isolation) and three for the Tshwane District Hospital (tent, emergency department and Covid-19 ward) to accommodate both sites,” explains Ueckermann.
“All doctors using the INTUboxes will be well-trained using simulated scenarios facilitated by Professor Ronel Herselman and a team of educators and clinicians at the faculty’s skills labs. The valuable aspect of these boxes is that they can be reused after a thorough cleaning and disinfecting.
“With rising infections, mostly through community transmission settings where densely populated areas are a high concern, the INTUboxes have specifically been designed with the benefit of performing an aerosol-generating procedure (such as suctioning or extubation) that keeps the aerosols in the box,” explains Ueckermann.
The INTUbox has a hepa-filter exhaust tube which injects cleanliness into the box at all times, by clearing out the contaminated air.
“Although the INTUbox is simple to use, the intubation process is administered by a qualified person, well-versed in the use of the box,” she added.
“The Faculty of Health Sciences is involved in over 30 projects to help curb the Covid-19 pandemic. We value the partnership between Nissan and UP,” says UP Faculty of Health Sciences dean Professor Tiaan de Jager.
“Through partnerships and innovation we will win the battle against Covid-19.”
UP’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Nissan developed three iterations of the INTUbox over the national Alert Level 5 lockdown period.
“We created a programme on one of our cutting robots to produce the boxes and employees volunteered their time to manufacture them,” notes Nissan South Africa manufacturing director Shafick Solomons.
The INTUboxes are produced at Nissan South Africa’s manufacturing plant, in Rosslyn. The materials used are polycarbonate sheets and nylon.
As the pandemic continues to spread, Nissan says it plans on manufacturing more INTUboxes.
The company is currently engaging with the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in this regard.