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Mercedes F1 engineers help make a breathing aid for coronavirus patients.

credit. JAMES/TYE/UCL

Formula One engine manufacturer Mercedes has teamed up with clinicians and university engineers in London to design a breathing aid for coronavirus patients that can be quickly mass produced, a development that could help reduce the need for ventilators.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, which was re-engineered from an existing machine in fewer than 100 hours, has been recommended for use by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, according to a statement from University College London (UCL), which worked on the project.

CPAP devices have been used in hospitals in China and Italy to treat coronavirus infections, with reports indicating that roughly half of such patients have avoided the need for ventilators, according to the statement. There is a severe shortage of ventilators in many countries, including Britain, that are fighting severe outbreaks.

“These devices will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a limited resource, are used only for the most severely ill,” said professor Mervyn Singer, a critical care consultant at University College London Hospitals (UCLH).

CPAP machines help to keep patients’ airways open and increase the amount of oxygen entering the lungs by pushing air and oxygen into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate.

Some experts have raised concerns that using CPAP machines may put hospital workers at risk by creating a mist of droplets containing the virus. But Britain’s National Health Service has recommended the devices be used to treat coronavirus patients, saying the risk of infection is low so long as staff wear personal protective equipment.

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