You can’t not like an invention called the Baby Bubbler. Even if it were called the Pontiac Aztek, you’d still have to like it, as it’s doubtless going to save many young lives. A team of five seniors from Houston’s Rice University developed the Bubbler, officially known as the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, for use on infants with respiratory infections in developing nations. Given that around 20 percent of deaths in children under five are caused by lower respiratory infections, that could make for a whole lot of saved babies.

The Bubbler is not meant to be used as a replacement for a ventilator, but as a respiratory support device. It consists of two main components, a flow generator and a regulator. The generator pumps air through a tube and up the baby’s nose, through nasal prongs. That tube then continues on to the regulator, which is actually just a bottle of water. The air pressure being delivered to the baby can be changed by simply adjusting the amount of water in the bottle.

Given that hospitals in developing nations can be woefully understaffed, an alarm will warn nurses if the system loses power and water starts to back up the tube.

The device was introduced in Rwanda this spring, as part of a global health technology commercialization class offered at Rice. Prototypes will be demonstrated in Malawi and Lesotho this summer, as part of the university’s Beyond Traditional Borders global health initiative. The salad spinner-based blood centrifuge we previously told you about was part of that same program.

Given that each Bubbler only costs US$140 to make, they will hopefully be widely accepted. "The United Nations has designated reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015 as one of its Millennium Development Goals," said project adviser Heather Machen. "We hope that this bubble CPAP will contribute toward achieving that goal."

View gallery - 2 images