The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown conventional wisdom out the window. Quite apart from new learnings about the epidemiology of viral infections, we are also witnessing a rise in wild theories. These include a medical doctor’s claim that the DNA of aliens is used to make medicines, and a politician’s insistence that masks are the cause of infections.

The problem with this is the possibility that we will “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

One example is a clinical trial involving Hadassah Hospital and SodaStream, the Israel-based manufacturer and distributor of home carbonation products. On its face, collaboration between a highly-credentialled tertiary hospital and research centre, with the makers of an off-the-shelf consumer product seems almost implausible. 

In fact, it is a serious collaboration that involves the use of SodaStream technology to provide respiratory assistance for COVID-19 patients.

Known as StreamO2, it is regarded as a breakthrough medical solution for nasal-breathing therapy.  According to the information released by Hadassah and SodaStream, the innovation is designed to treat COVID-19 patients in mild to moderate conditions who are in respiratory distress but still breathing spontaneously.

The device developed by SodaStream and Hadassah allows for the administration of an oxygen-air mixture through the nose at high flow rates, high humidity, and body temperature. The development is based on a thermodynamic system that controls the temperature of the air-oxygen mixture and flows the mixture into the patient's nose in combination with high humidity of over 80%. The parameters of humidity, temperature, and percentage of oxygen - critical to the quality of respiration - are constantly monitored and provide a visual and audible indication to the medical staff in case of abnormality.

“Studies have shown that this type of oxygen device can prevent aggravation and intubation (invasive respiratory assistance) in some patients, and may reduce the complications and risks associated with it,” says Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Hadassah Australia.

“Importantly, this innovative addition to the ICU armoury will expand the options for non-invasive treatment in the fight against the COVID-19 enemy.” 

With the outbreak of COVID-19, Dr Akiva Nachshon, a senior physician in the intensive care unit at Hadassah Ein Kerem, and Avi Cohen, Head of R&D at SodaStream, set up a special engineering team comprised of doctors and development engineers. 

Due to the urgent necessity for the product, the team received an accelerated approval from the Clinical Trials Unit of the Israeli Ministry of Health.  The trial comprised 40 patients.

"The nasal breathing therapy machine can be a perfect life-saving solution," says Avi Cohen. "The advantage of our development is the ability to replicate it in bulk for patients suffering from respiratory distress in Israel and around the world".

Mr Finkel said Hadassah’s involvement in the trial was further evidence of its willingness to engage with research partners in the commercial space in order to identify solutions for the benefit of mankind.

“This is another shining example of Hadassah being ‘more than a hospital,” he said. “It isn’t only about ‘thinking outside the box’ for solutions, but being prepared to commit time and resources when both are in limited supply.”