Innovation and Research

Due to the nature and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers across the globe have had to improvise solutions in order to protect the health and well-being of their communities. At University Health System, our staff and trusted partners are working proactively to combat the challenges we have seen reflected in other populations. The great asset of humans is our ability to adapt, and we have seen great innovation and research in response to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

Extending the Life of N95 Masks

N95 face masks are considered the gold standard for protecting medical staff caring for patients who may spread COVID-19. Predicting a shortage of personal protective equipment, our staff invented a method to sterilize N95 masks so that they can be worn more than once. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted approval for University Health System to use a hydrogen peroxide gas process to sterilize N95 masks. Since suppliers have been unable to keep up with hospital demands for N95 masks, this method ensures our staff will remain protected even during a shortage.

Developing a More Effective Mask

University Health System’s Chief Nurse Executive Tommye Austin led a team to develop a new type of mask made of materials that can be sourced locally and are not in high demand during the crisis. The mask underwent rigorous testing at the Southwest Research Institute, who found it to be up to 99% effective in protecting against the fine particles and droplets that spread COVID-19. By comparison, standard-issue N95 masks are 95% effective.

Power Plasma Study

We’re proud to be working closely with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center on a treatment study using the donated plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19. “We have begun transfusing hospitalized COVID-19-positive patients with the plasma,” said Dr. Leslie Greebon, University Health System’s medical director of transfusion services. “It’s too early to say how well it is working,” Dr. Greebon said, “but there have been no adverse events so far.”

People interested in donating can contact South Texas Blood & Tissue Center by email at COVID19@southtexasblood.org or call 210-731-2719.

Remdesivir Clinical Trial

Physicians at University Health System are among the first in the country to help test a drug that may prove effective in treating COVID-19.

The drug, remdesivir, is an experimental, antiviral therapy that may prevent the virus from reproducing in people’s bodies. The drug has been tested in people with Ebola. It also has been tested in animals in studies of the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, which are caused by other coronaviruses.