As doctors throughout the world look for better ways to treat people who contract the coronavirus, many have sought out innovative and unconventional ideas and methods to slow the spread of the new virus. The search for clues has sometimes led medical professionals to look for answers from small businesses that have a knack for ingenuity.
So when it came to helping solve breathing difficulties of recovering COVID patients, doctors in one hospital found themselves looking to the makers of the SodaStream© countertop beverage machine for help. The engineers who invented SodaStream© never dreamed their invention held innovations that could be used to ease the discomfort of patients in a pandemic.
Battling COVID-19 on the front lines in Jerusalem, Dr. Akiva Nachshon told a friend that many of his patients needed help with their breathing but didn’t need the full-scale use of a ventilator. Because of its invasive technology, a ventilator can lead to longer recovery times for patients and sometimes damaging side effects. Ventilators also are expensive and, at the time, in short supply in Israel.
Patients with mild to moderate symptoms from the virus would do better with a device that gave them the precise levels of oxygen required in their situation, according to Nachshon. A small number of devices were able to do the job, but they were limited for individual treatment and not for mass situations such as a pandemic.
“We realized that there was an acute shortage of non-invasive respiratory aids to treat COVID-19 patients,” said Nachshon, a senior physician in the intensive care unit at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. “We tried to think outside the box.”
The conversation led Nachshon to SodaStream©, headquartered just an hour north of the hospital.
“The solution is right here in the Israeli industry, under our nose, in every kitchen,” Nachshon said. “One conversation with SodaStream© Head of R&D was enough to get things going. On the same day, we already sat on a sketch, and from that point the project progressed incredibly fast. Our vision is to be able to assist every patient in need of respiratory assistance as this treatment can prevent unnecessary invasive interventions."
Nachshon worked with Avi Cohen, head of the Research and Development division of SodaStream©, and together they set up a special engineering team comprised of the company’s development engineers. In less than three months, SodaStream©, which is owned by US-based PepsiCo, collaborated with the hospital to create StreamO2, a respiratory device that controls the flow, temperature and humidity of the air that is pushed through a patient’s nose to help them breathe. It is currently undergoing clinical trial with 40 patients.
"Upon successfully passing clinical trials, StreamO2 can potentially be next to every hospital bed," Cohen told Fortune.
The device is designed to treat COVID-19 patients with milder virus conditions. So no intubation is needed, and the StreamO2 frees up ventilators for those in critical condition who need them most.
“Collaborating with companies like SodaStream© and PepsiCo when it comes to tough solutions enabled us to take everything to the next level… to make our dream a reality,” Nachshon said. “These companies are major vehicles for positive change.”
“It is a tremendous privilege for us to be able to use our technology and resources to provide relief to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to help save lives,” SodaStream© Global CEO Eyal Shohat said. “We will provide Hadassah with all the means at our disposal … and we will not hesitate to reach out to other countries and offer our assistance.”