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MDX scientists carry out vitally important water tests for new COVID-19 rehab centre

22/07/2020
MDX staff have been ensuring the new facility which treats patients diagnosed or recovering from coronavirus has a highly-purified water supply.

Middlesex University scientists have been carrying out hi-tech tests on the water supply to a new rehab centre for COVID-19 patients.

Helier Scientific Ltd, a diagnostic testing company based in St Helier Hospital, have recruited MDX scientists to analyse the water being used at the NHS Headly Court Hospital in Surrey for patients diagnosed with coronavirus or recovering from the virus.

For the past two years, Middlesex’s Department of Natural Sciences have been organising and carrying out analysis for Helier Scientific of the water used in the treatment of patients with Acute Kidney injuries in hospitals and home dialysis.

“Dirk Wildeboer's team at Middlesex are of an excellent reputation for high quality analysis measuring metals from aluminium to zinc.  For work of this importance they were an obvious choice when we need help.” Mark Dockerell, the CEO of Helier Scientific.

It is estimated that between 20% to 40% of patients diagnosed with coronavirus who are admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICU) are suffering from Acute Kidney Injury.

Patients with kidney disease are given a replacement therapy that require huge amounts of highly-purified water to feed their machines.

“Because it goes directly into the blood and obviously these patients are very ill, their kidneys are already damaged so they are more susceptible to toxic metals,” explained Dr Dirk Wildeboer, an MDX Lecturer in Biomedical Science who manages the Helier Scientific water analysis.

“That’s why the levels must be much lower and why you need sensitive instrumentation to produce these measurements at these very low levels, which we aim to provide with our technology.”

The water analysis took place over two days at the end of June in the Science & Technology Department’s impressive Hatchcroft labs.

Leonardo Pantoja Munoz, an MDX Science & Technology Technical Tutor, tests the water for 18 metals and metalloids (including some heavy metals) and four common inorganic anions: fluoride, chloride, nitrate and sulphate.

The tests use three instruments: Ion Chromatography (IC), Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

This analysis takes two days to complete and includes a full performance tests which measures 62 elements for a set period of time to ensure they meet international standards, according to Leonardo.

The new NHS Headley Court Hospital, in a disused military hospital, has up to 300 beds for patients recovering from COVID-19 or who have contracted the virus and are too unwell to be cared for at home.

Mark Dockerell, the CEO of Helier Scientific which provides diagnostic tests to a number of hospitals and health facilities in relation to kidney diseases, said: “Our kidneys clean our blood, constantly.

“Every day 180 litres of blood are cleaned and recycled, keeping us alive.

“If our kidneys stop working we would die if we didn't have renal replacement therapies such as haemodialysis.

“Acute Kidney Injury affects 20-40% of patients admitted to hospital ICUs with COVID-19.

“This has created an urgent need for haemodialysis in hospital ICUs.

“Haemodialysis requires enormous quantities of pure water.

“Much purer than drinking water as it comes into close contact with the patient’s blood.

“Dirk Wildeboer's team at the Middlesex of an excellent reputation for high quality analysis measuring metals from aluminium to zinc.

“For work of this importance they were an obvious choice when we need help.”

Find out more about the MDX Department of Natural Science

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