A team of mechanical engineering and bioengineering graduate students at Georgia Tech has developed an innovative device for capturing aerosols originating in the lungs. The common problem in diagnosing pneumonia is that during collection, the sample often gets contaminated by oral bacteria. The PneumoniaCheck takes advantage of air currents to separate particles coming from the lungs from those originating in the mouth so that pulmonary phlegm hits the filter and everything else goes into the balloon below. David Ku, the engineering professor who oversaw the project, says that the PneumoniaCheck “has the potential to save more lives than any other medical device.” To be available for sale later this month, via a spinoff firm MD Innovate, we hope the professor’s comments come true.
The device contains a plastic tube with a mouthpiece. A patient coughs into the device to fill up a balloon-like upper airway reservoir before the lung aerosols go into a filter. Using fluid mechanics, PneumoniaCheck separates the upper airway particles of the mouth from the lower airway particles coming from the lungs.
The FDA has cleared PneumoniaCheck for sale in the U.S. The device is licensed but its patent is pending.