Local doctors lead effort to build better PPE for health-care workers

As COVID-19 impacted the St. Louis community last spring, internal medicine specialists Jennifer DeLaney, MD, and David Katzman, MD, witnessed firsthand the need for safe, comfortable and sustainable PPE for health-care workers. DeLaney and Katzman, both instructors in clinical medicine at the School of Medicine, had an innovative solution: remodeling the powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) — a PPE used during the Ebola and SARS epidemics — using parts of a CPAP machine and respiratory supplies. With the help of teams of engineers from Hunter Engineering and the Veterans Health Administration and funding from the St. Louis community, their prototype was transformed into one of only six PAPRs approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for use during the public health emergency.

The end product, called the ADAPT, has a filter efficiency of 99.97% — 2.5 times safer than an N-95 mask — as well as a low-flow alarm and a fog-free face shield. It’s also comfortable for extended wear, and reusable.

“We are ready to donate 300 units for use in ICUs, emergency departments and COVID units through our partnership with the university,” DeLaney said. “It is a heart-warming story, starting with prototype design from the local 3D printing and robotics community all the way up to full-scale, American-made manufacturing of a critical safety product to protect our health-care workers.”