How a shampoo bottle is saving young lives

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

In his first night as a trainee paediatrician in Sylhet, Bangladesh, Mohamad Chisti (pictured above) watched three children die of pneumonia. Oxygen was being delivered to them, through a face mask or via tubes placed near their nostrils, using what is called a basic “low-flow” technique which followed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for low-income countries. But it was clearly failing. He decided to find a better way.

Last year 920,000 children under the age of five died of pneumonia, making it the leading killer of people in that age group. This figure is falling (in 2011 it was 1.2m), but it still represents 16% of all infant deaths. Such deaths are not, however, evenly distributed. In Bangladesh pneumonia causes 28% of infant mortality.

Pneumonia is a result of bacterial, viral or fungal infection of the lungs. Its symptoms of breathlessness result from a build-up of pus in the alveoli. These are tiny sacs, found at the ends of the branching airways within the lungs, that are richly infused with capillary blood vessels. They are the places where oxygen enters the bloodstream and carbon dioxide leaves it. Stop the alveoli doing their job and a patient will suffocate.

Photo courtesy of Keoni Cabral.

Source: The Economist (link opens in a new window)

Health Care