Researchers at the University of Limerick, in Ireland, have developed a disposable percussion device, called SoloPEP, that works to remove mucus from the airways of people with cystic fibrosis (CF) so as to lessen their likelihood of infections, leading to fewer doctor’s appointments, less antibiotic use, and shorter hospital stays.
“SoloPEP is a good example of user-centered design and it will have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of cystic fibrosis patients,” Leonard O’Sullivan, PhD, with the university’s School of Design, said in a press release.
SoloPep is also disposable, unlike the percussion-based chest physiotherapy devices that patients also use to clear mucus, and which “can sometimes become reservoirs for the bacteria that cause infections,” said Colum Dunne, director of research at the university’s Graduate Entry Medical School. The device is expected to be ready to be marketed within two years.
“In our research, we have observed that compliance with hygiene practices for reusable devices, by patient, is potentially poor. As such, despite even excellent compliance with prescribed antimicrobial regimens, the devices may become colonized with problematic or opportunistic pathogenic microbes,” Dunne added. “The devices may, therefore, function as a reservoir that does not come into contact with the antimicrobial agents. … there is a need to develop novel inexpensive, single-use devices.”
Ireland has the highest per capita incidence of CF in the world, the researchers reported.
“Because of this, it is reasonable to expect treatment innovations generated by Irish researchers and careers,” Dunne said. “One example that we have focused on here is the CF patient airway, which is defective in ciliary function; resulting … in a mucus-rich environment favoring growth of bacteria. These bacteria include potential pathogens, associated with chronic infection, decreased lung function and accelerated respiratory disease.”
The research team recently secured €500,000 from Enterprise Ireland to further develop the device.
“This product has the potential to improve the lives of Cystic Fibrosis and other patients. But for that to happen the product must actually be available to them,” Dunne concluded.