New equipment developed by Berkeley scientists could help slow coronavirus spread

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Berkeley-based Alin Foundation unveiled its "Care + Germ Containment" enclosure Wednesday.

The new germ containment apparatus could be a medical breakthrough in treating infectious illness like the coronavirus.

"Doctors and nurses are coming down with infections," said Dr. Kenneth Matsumura, chairman and CEO of Alin Foundation. "At this rate there will be few caregivers not only available, but willing to treat sick patients."

The larger, transparent containment boxes essentially serve as "bubbles" to keep a sick patient's germs inside while keeping caregivers protected.

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Doctors and nurses will be able to place their hands in one of several pre-installed long-arm gloves to provide medication, insert and IV or otherwise interact.

China has struggled with protecting caregivers with more than 3,000 of them now infected with coronavirus.

Matsumura said hazmat suits aren't the answer for treating this type of outbreak.

He said Hazmat suits take upwards of an hour to put on, overheat the caregiver in side so they can only wear them for two-to-three hours, and are difficult to safely dispose of.

"That's been the problem over there (China)," he said. "They are running out of material and that's only with a few infected patients."

Matsumura said the idea for the germ containment enclosure was initially a response to seeing caregivers treating infected patients come down with the Ebola virus several years ago.

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Five years of search and development later, a team of six scientists have created this new piece of potentially game-changing equipment.

"Doctors and nurses can feel comfortable in trying to save the life of an infectious patient." Matsumura said.

Each unit will cost $50,000 to $100,000 and is meant to be cleaned and disinfected between uses.

The units can also be customized for different needs.

Eventually the doctor hopes to be able to merge several of the units together so larger, more spacious enclosures can be manufactured.

Despite the price tag, Matsumura believes the enclosure will save medical systems money.

He estimates the equipment will cost 10 percent of the price of purchasing and disposing of hazmat suits.

Matsumura believes the first functional unit could be just weeks away from being used.

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