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Global Health Challenge:


The WHO estimates that 50,000 women worldwide die annually as a result of pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, specifically in developing countries. Here, the standard treatment of magnesium sulfate is hindered due to complexities and costs of IV delivery of the drug. The side effects and increased danger of MgSO4 in intramuscular injections deter some doctors in low-resource settings from using MgSO4 to treat pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. Syringe pumps are used to administer IV medication and fluids at carefully controlled rates. Syringe pumps are considered standard equipment in hospitals in the developed world, and a recent review of core equipment necessary in developing world hospitals identified syringe pumps as key to providing effective care in the newborn nursery, the maternity ward, and outpatient clinics. Unfortunately, commercially available syringe pumps are costly, fragile, complex, and may require external power, which limits their usability in the developing world.


Rice 360° Solution:


Recently, a team of researchers at Rice University developed AutoSyP, a syringe pump modified to be low cost ($300) and low power and intended for IV drug infusion in developing world hospitals. AutoSyP is operated in the same way as commercial syringe pumps. The user loads the syringe and secures it to be depressed mechanically by the depressor on the syringe pump. The user then programs the syringe size and infusion rate on the user interface. Then the device’s microcontroller automatically controls the rate of syringe depression. The device is equipped with an occlusion alarm for hard and soft pressure occlusions. To conserve electrical energy, a spring within the device helps provides energy to depress the syringe, replacing a portion of the electrical energy that is normally used to depress the syringe. Because of this, the device can run on battery power for 20 hours, a highly beneficial feature for low-resource settings where the power supply may be unreliable. AutoSyP can also run off the wall power supply when it is available; when plugged into the wall, the battery is recharged.


Current Status and Next Steps:


Due to the support from USAID Development Innovations Ventures and Merck for Mothers, we have been able to further develop and test AutoSyP in both pediatric and adult populations. A healthy volunteer trial was conducted in partnership with Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. Following this study, our team completed two trials delivering fluid to 30 pediatric patients and MGSO4 to pregnant women suffering from pre-eclampsia at QECH. We are now discussing the scale-up plan with multiple stakeholders and plan to apply for continued funding to support AutoSyP scale-up into clinical settings in Malawi.

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