A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device for infants has been developed by four students from Rice University in Texas, US.

The Baby Bubbler helps children with acute respiratory infections breathe naturally as they recover.

The device is used for respiratory support, but is not a replacement for a ventilator, as it requires patients to breathe on their own.

It works by pumping air from a flow generator to the infant, who breathes through nasal prongs. A second component – a water bottle – serves as a regulator.

The air pressure level can be altered by adjusting the depth of water in the bottle, and the device has an alarm to detect backflow of water into the line and warn doctors if the circuit loses pressure.

“It’s a simple design, but it’s incredibly important in developing countries where the nurse-to-patient ratio is sometimes one nurse for 40 or so patients,” said Michael Pandya, one of the students who worked on the device.

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Prototypes of the device will demonstrated in Malawi and Lesotho this summer as a first step towards clinical testing.

CPAP devices are commonly used to treat sleep apnoea in adults.