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A Personal Respirator for Healthcare Professionals Treating COVID-19 (PeRSo)

Latest News

Latest News

The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) has awarded the University of Southampton team behind PeRSo - Personal Respirator Southampton - with a President’s Special Award for Pandemic Service for exceptional engineering achievements in tackling COVID-19 throughout the UK. Read more here.

 

Image of a PeRSo unit, by Ric Gillams
Image by Ric Gillams

Project Outline

Keeping Our Healthcare Workers Safe

Our frontline medical staff are in constant danger of being exposed to COVID-19 infection. The risk of more serious illness is higher for people exposed to a high ‘viral load’, like our doctors and nurses. In Italy an estimated 20% of healthcare workers responding to the COVID-19 outbreak have become infected, and make up 9% of the country’s cases. It is essential that we minimise the risk of infection in medical staff and stop them getting sick at the peak of the pandemic so that they can care for others. Our healthcare workers are using disposable surgical and FFP3 masks which are in high demand, and in many parts of the world are simply unavailable. Many staff have also reported difficulties with how they fit. Personal respirators are an alternative. They use a fan to draw in air, through a filter, and deliver it to an enclosed hood or face mask. However most respirator products are unavailable, and are expensive or heavy, noisy, and uncomfortable.

 

PeRSo: A Prototype Personal Respirator Developed in One Week

Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a prototype personal respirator called ‘PeRSo’, intended to address the limitations of the existing protective equipment doctors and nurses are wearing on the wards. Our prototype consists of a fabric hood which covers the wearer’s head, and a plastic visor to protect their face. A small portable unit delivers clean air through a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to the wearer from a battery-powered fan pack mounted on a belt. In a rapid development process we have gone from a problem specification to working prototypes within a week, and conducted preliminary tests.

Paul Elkington walking towards Building 85 wearing a PeRSo, image by Ric Gillams
Image by Ric Gillams

These respirators have to be safe and comfortable when worn continuously for 8-9 hours. The PeRSo prototype is designed to be light weight and quiet, because the fan is far away from the user’s head. To tackle availability issues in our prototype we have tried to use off-the-shelf components where possible, and to use readily available materials and manufacturing methods like laser cutting, 3D printing and a lightweight sewing machine.

NHS staff walking through the hospital wearing PeRSos, image by Ric Gillams
Image by Ric Gillams

How to Make PeRSo Available to as Many People as Possible?

The prototype has already passed first-stage ‘sniff’ tests where a strong-tasting vapour is sprayed around the air inlet to see whether the user can detect it, and no penetration occurred. The next steps are tests with doctors and nurses on wards, to obtain feedback on comfort, usability and efficiency. Importantly this is still a prototype,  and it is not yet available. The immediate aim is to develop local production and the team are in talks with manufacturers about the potential to upscale production and make the product available to as many healthcare professionals as possible. The prototype design has been published as an open specification (link below) so it is available to other manufacturers around the world. We have launched the PeRSo-DW (Developing World), and will be starting to provide open source modifications for components available to low resource countries. Please click here to go the PeRSo-DW page.

Paul Elkington, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton, said “It is really important to minimise the risk of infection in medical staff and stop them getting sick at the peak of the pandemic, so that they can care for others.  Our next tests will further refine the comfort of the headset and evaluate how it improves efficiency”.

Robert Read, Professor of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Biomedical Research Centre said “PeRSO has been developed by the National Institute for Health Research Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. Research is the only exit strategy for this pandemic and the Biomedical Research Centre is supporting our Southampton investigators to develop  and apply new strategies to help the NHS, enabling collaboration nationally contributing to the national response to COVID-19 ”.

Hywel Morgan, Professor of Bioelectronics at the University of Southampton said “This is an excellent example of industry, universities and hospitals combining their expertise and answering the call to develop solutions needed to save lives in the current crisis".

PeRSo-DW page
PeRSo-DW page link

Original Open Access Papers

NB: The University cannot accept responsibility for external websites

Link to open access paper: A Personal Respirator Specification for Health-care Workers Treating COVID-19 _PeRSo)
Link to open access paper
Link to open access paper: Personal Respirators for Population Level Control of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Link to open access paper
Link to how to document: Making and Testing a PeRSo Air-purified Respirator
Link to how to document

Useful Downloads

Need the software?PDF Reader

Instructional Videos

Introduction to PeRSo

Dr Nitin Mahobia presents the key features of the PeRSo ahead of roll out at Southampton General Hospital.

Watch video

Donning and Doffing Protocol

This video demonstrates the preparation, donning, doffing and cleaning protocols for the PeRSo respirator.

Watch video

PeRSo in the News

5 News, 19 May 2020

Southampton hospital innovating to keep virus at bay.

Watch video

BBC South Today, 24 April 2020

PeRSo respirator PPE introduced on hospital wards.

Watch video

Times News, 1 April 2020

A look at a prototype PPE unit for NHS workers treating coronavirus patients, developed by the University of Southampton.

Watch video

BBC South Today, 1 April 2020

New PPE in development at University of Southampton for frontline healthcare staff.

Watch video

Acknowledgements

Montage by Antonio de Grazia
Montage by Antonio de Grazia

We would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following individuals and organisations:

University of Southampton team: Antonio de Grazia, Alex Dickinson, Paul Elkington, Ric Gillams, Alex Mant, Mark Mavrogordato, Roel Mingels, Hywel Morgan, Sebastian Rosini, and Dan Spencer.

National Oceanography Centre (NOC): NOC engineers, including Matt Mowlem.

McLaren: Matt Wells, Steve Foster and Scott Bain.

Kemp Sails: Rob Kemp and team.

 

Confirmed Manufacturing Partners Involved

INDO (on behalf of Baynhams) (as of 31/03/2020) - https://www.baynhams.com/covid-19

Frequently Asked Questions

When could PeRSo be available for healthcare workers?

The University will not be manufacturing or supplying PeRSo directly. We are in daily contact with manufacturers and our first manufacturer, INDO (on behalf of Baynams), is on board and taking forward product development, safety and resilience testing together with the necessary quality assurance. We will work with manufacturers to progress the scaling up of production.

How is PeRSo different from other Protective Respirator Equipment (PRE)?

PeRSo is not a novel product; however it uses off-the-shelf components, which may help to avoid current global supply challenges for PRE.

How is PeRSo different from other PPE?

Equipment such as FFP3/N95 masks may fail during use because the seal between the skin and the mask leaks during talking or after prolonged use, with a failure rate reported at approximately 20%. Furthermore, they give no eye protection. The PeRSo is a reusable battery-powered system that HEPA filters the air, removing 99.95% of particulate matter. The HEPA is held within a moulded housing and so cannot leak; and air is circulated via a fan. The hood provides splash protection and stops you accidentally touching your face, which is a common route of infection.

What safety tests are you carrying out?

University of Southampton researchers have performed the standard aerosol testing used for face fit testing, and the PeRSo passed even when the spray was fired recurrently into the HEPA filter. Similarly, we have performed a smoke test, with smoke blown at the head, and no penetration occurred. The manufacturing partners will undertake their own product validation and testing before making products available. 

The prototype has not been fully tested to BS EN 12941:1998+A2:2008. UK manufacturers are working to ensure their product conforms with the relevant standards (for the UK market this is BS EN 12941:1998+A2:2008).

How long will the test period be?

Real world testing on NHS wards is currently underway and this feedback will be used to inform further designs. We will post updates on this webpage.

Are you looking for trial participants or sites?

The University isn’t looking for trial participants or trial sites. The manufacturing partners will be taking forward their own quality assurance and testing. If the situation changes we will update this page.

How long can PeRSo be worn?

The aim for the design team was to develop a product which could be used for 8-9 hours. We will expect the product manufacturer to advise on this detail and provide product information before they are released.

How many PeRSos will you be able to make?

The University will not be manufacturing PeRSos. We are in discussions with manufacturers about the potential to scale up PeRSo manufacture, we will list our manufacturing partners in the updates above, and if our tests are successful, we will publish the design open specification. The fan component is currently the limiting factor in terms of availability, but after discussion with major manufacturers, they should be able to produce many tens of thousands a day. Then the challenge is scaling up production to meet the global demand in high population countries whilst maintaining quality. Interested manufacturers in the UK or internationally can register through the webform link below.

What does a PeRSo cost?

The prototype for PeRSo was built from existing and available components. The manufacturing partners may redesign some elements and will need to source or manufacture components to hit production scale. We think it is important that the manufacturer advises on the cost of any finished product

Can I buy one?

The PeRSo is currently a prototype and as such cannot be purchased at the moment. The University will not be manufacturing, distributing or selling PeRSo, but we are in active communication with potential manufacturers who will bring the product to market. Current manufacturers are listed above; please check back to this website for further updates. The expectation is that manufacturers are likely to target sales at a national/organisational level, and it is unlikely that sales will be made to individuals/consumers.

What user feedback have you had?

Prototypes have been tested by respiratory physicians and nurses. The doctors primarily commented on the advantage of not needing to change PPE frequently, which makes work much more efficient, and the protection given when on wards where FFP3 face masks are not used, such as COVID19 unknown wards. One nurse, who had worked during the SARS epidemic, commented that the flow of air down the face was much more comfortable than a FFP3 mask for long term use.

Do you have any plans for further development?

If given further support, we would like to develop variations, such as the PeRSo-DW (Developing world, made from widely available materials as low cost as possible) and PeRSo-GP (front mounted so that it can be used during seated consultations).

I’m represent a company and we would like to make PeRSos?

Please complete our webform we would be interested to hear from businesses in the UK and internationally.

I’m a member of the press, can I speak to you about this?

Please contact the Media Relations Team at press@soton.ac.uk.

Procurement Team Registration Form

Disclaimer

Except as represented here the Specification for the PeRSo Prototype and any information provided on this website and linked pages is provided “AS IS”. The University of Southampton gives no assurance, guarantee or warranty, express or implied, that any PeRSo device manufactured or assembled following this specification: will be safe to use; will be of merchantable quality; will be fit for any particular purpose; will protect individuals from contracting Covid19 or any other infectious disease or virus whilst using it; or that individuals using it will not suffer personal injury or death. The University of Southampton does not warrant or in any way assert that the manufacture, sale or use of PeRSos will not infringe the intellectual property of any other person or organization. The University of Southampton hereby disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, and excludes, to the maximum extent permitted by law, any and all liability for any loss, harm, damage, injury or death suffered by any person caused by, or resulting from, their reliance on the information, designs and Specifications provided.

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