PH researchers design sanitation pods for COVID-19 frontliners

Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2020 03:23 PM

PH researchers design sanitation pods for COVID-19 frontliners 1
Photos courtesy of SIBOL

MANILA — A group of researchers from the University of the Philippines are building a sanitation cubicle for medical workers at the frontlines of efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic. 

The "SaniPod" is a self-containing cubicle meant for sanitizing frontliners as they exit COVID-19 patient wards.

Inside the cubicle, health workers will be sprayed with disinfectants and will also use UV light, which studies said could deactivate the coronavirus. A foot sanitation unit can also be provided to disinfect the soles of shoes, project leader Dr. Edward HM Wang said Thursday. 

Wang said health workers may be carrying the virus on their personal protective equipment as they exit a facility. 

"Heavily infected ng virus ang COVID ward di ba? So paglabas the health care worker, dala-dala niya ito sa kanyang PPE. 'Yung labas ng PPE may mga virus," he said. 

(COVID wards are heaviliy infected with the virus right? So when a health care worker goes out, he/she carries the virus in their PPE. The outside of the PPE has the virus.)

Disinfecting the personal protective equipment of frontliners willl serve as another layer of protection. It will also help lessen the chances of microbes staying on the surface and reduce the chances of contamination, researchers said. 

Aside from health care workers, safety officers and those disposing of the PPEs would be protected as well, Wang said.

"Kung 'yung PPE mo ay madumi or contaminated, siyempre 'yung magko-collect mako-contaminate din. Tapos another thing na very important to consider is protection ng ating environment, not directly from the virus but from disinfectants used." 

(If your PPEs are dirty or contaminated, of course those who collect them may also get contaminated. And another thing that's very important to consider is the protection of our environment, not directly from the virus but from disinfectants used."

For disinfection, medical personnel simply have to step inside the Sanipod booth. The entrance and exit doors and the walls of the cubicle are made of easy-to-clean materials and mechanisms.

The cubicle offers misting with disinfectants coupled with the use of UV light. A foot sanitation unit may also be provided to disinfect the soles of shoes.

PH researchers design sanitation pods for COVID-19 frontliners 2
Photo courtesy of SIBOL

SaniPod is one of the efforts under the Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology Laboratory or SIBOL program of the University of the Philippines- Manila College of Medicine, where doctors collaborate closely on different innovation projects with engineers and scientists from UP Diliman.

The SIBOL-COVID SaniPod team includes faculty from UP Manila, namely Wang and Dr. Cathy Co, and professor Ed Magdaluyo, engineer Jason Pechardo and tech lead Don Argote from the UP Diliman College of Engineering.

It took the team two months to build the prototype and was subjected to several tests including the pathogen challenge, Wang said. 

"'Yung pathogen challenge is a procedure na ginagawa namin to make sure about disinfection. Pagpasok ng tao sa SaniPod, alam natin na may dumi. After nung misting at lahat nung gagawin sa SaniPod, dapat paglabas niya ay malinis na siya. May process 'yan through biological testing."

(The pathogen challenge is a procedure we do to make sure about disinfection. Once a person enters a SaniPod, we know there's contamination. After the misting and everything to be done inside the SaniPod, the person should already be clean. There's a process through biological testing.)

Results revealed that the pathogens on the PPEs of health care workers were eliminated after using the SaniPod, which shows its reliability in terms of disinfection.

The team hopes to have 5 pods ready in three to four months for distribution in hospitals with a high number of cases of COVID-19. 

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development under the Department of Science and Technology is helping fund the project.

PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya saw the potential of the SaniPod after extensive review. 

"Nung nakita natin na OK 'yung proyekto at maganda 'yung kahihinatnan, inapprove natin ito at sinuportahan," he said.

(When we saw that the project is OK and the results were good, we approved and supported it.)