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UGM lecturer creates swab chamber to improve safety of COVID-19 testing

Sri Wahyuni

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta  /  Wed, April 22, 2020  /  04:57 pm
UGM lecturer creates swab chamber to improve safety of COVID-19 testing

Developed by Jaka Widada, a lecturer in the university’s agriculture microbiology department, the chamber allows medical workers to take samples from a patient’s nose and throat using disposable gloves that protrude outward from the chamber, which is equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. (Courtesy of UGM/File)

A lecturer at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) has created a swab chamber to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) faced by medical staff when testing COVID-19 patients.

Developed by Jaka Widada, a lecturer in the university’s agriculture microbiology department, the chamber allows medical workers to take samples from a patient’s nose and throat using disposable gloves that protrude outward from the chamber, which is equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

“With this chamber, medical staff will only need to wear a face mask when conducting swab tests,” said Jaka, who is also an environmental biotechnologist.

He added that the chamber would not only help address the PPE shortage, but would also help reduce medical waste.

Physically, the chamber measures 90 cm by 90 cm with a height of two meters. The body is made of 3 mm thick aluminum panel composite (APC) and comes with a door on the back and a 6 mm thick glass wall on the front with two holes where the long medical standard gloves are installed

Jaka said stainless steel was a more ideal material for the chamber, but the production costs would be higher. However, he stated that the aluminum chamber was acceptable in terms of quality and medical standards.

Read also: COVID-19: Popular disinfection chambers not safe, cause irritation, expert says

Jaka  said the chamber would not only help address the PPE shortage, but would also help reduce medical waste.Jaka said the chamber would not only help address the PPE shortage, but would also help reduce medical waste. (Courtesy of UGM/File)

The chamber also comes with a lamp for illumination, a speaker to communicate with the patients and four wheels at the bottom for easy mobility.

Each time a test is completed, the chamber will be cleaned using disinfectant and the gloves will be changed with new ones. “So, when a new patient comes, it is ready to use,” said Jaka, who received his doctoral degree from the University of Tokyo.

Jaka was inspired to create the chamber after watching a video of a South Korean medical worker working from a chamber while conducting a swab test. Following a discussion with his wife who is an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist familiar with swab tests, he came up with the idea.

“As a microbiologist who studies bacteria, viruses and other things, I am familiar with the characteristics of viruses and how to make a bacteria-free chamber,” Jaka said.

He added that the funds to build the chamber came from crowdfunding, including from WhatsApp group Sambatan Jogja (Sonjo) that was initiated by his colleague Rimawan Pradiptyo of UGM’s School of Economy and Business.

Each chamber costs Rp 8 million (US$513) to manufacture. For production purposes, he collaborated with two small and medium-sized businesses in Yogyakarta, which are reportedly able to produce up to 15 chambers per week.

“Hopefully, this swab chamber will inspire young people to innovate to help this fight against COVID-19,” he said. (kes)

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