South African scientists curb the Covid-19 spread by invention

Scientist holding Covid-19 test tube (PHOTO: Taechit Taechamanodom/Getty Images)
Scientist holding Covid-19 test tube (PHOTO: Taechit Taechamanodom/Getty Images)
Taechit Taechamanodom

We understand the viral coronavirus outbreak more and more each day. As per the words of Professor Salim Abdool Karim during a recent health briefing presentation, we haven’t seen the worst the virus can do in South Africa because of “the delayed exponential curve” the lockdown will cause.

With more time to prepare for the virus, ramping up testing and ensuring that frontline healthcare staff are protected is important. Helping to better equip Mzansi in the fight against Covid-19 is University of Limpopo medical scientist Professor Tivani Mashamba-Thompson.

Together with Ellen Crayton of Genesis Technology and Management Group in the US, they’ve pioneered a low-cost block-chain system for tracking and monitoring Covid-19 infections in rural settlements. They’ve detailed their model in a paper, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Technology for Novel Coronavirus Disease-19 Self-Testing, submitted to peer-reviewed journal Diagnostics  – Open Access Journal, and published on 1 April 2020.  

Speaking to DRUM, Professor Mashamba-Thompson said the model is a “contribution of knowledge by researchers. We do not have the power to implement, and the only way it can work is if government can take it up”. She explained the app will help in the identification of cases in densely populated disadvantaged communities which will in turn link artificial intelligence technology with point-of-care diagnostics to enable self-testing of people in isolation or lockdown as a result of exposure to Covid-19.

In Johannesburg, Professor Feroza Motara and her team at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital have come up with an innovative way to help protect healthcare workers from Covid-19. The product of a brainstorming session, the Intubox will help protect healthcare workers when they assist patients with Covid-19.  The Intubox can be used in any intubation, extubation or aerolising procedures, TimesLive reports.

Prof Motara explained that the box, which is now in use at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital – with 500 boxes to be distributed to hospitals across Gauteng and SA over time – can be used beyond the scope of the coronavirus. “It has a wider use than just for sick Covid-19 patients who need ventilation. It can also be used in theatre by anaesthetics, in ICU for critical care of patients, and in Covid-19 wards with patients on high-flow oxygen,” she said.

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