Mumbai start-up designs device to help hospitals disinfect, reuse COVID gear

Indra Water's innovation uses UV-C light spectrum to quickly disinfect PPE kits, masks and is helpful in reducing biomedical waste. It is also cost-saving since it can be re-used at a short notice

The UV disinfection of PPEs by 'Vajra Kavach', as the device developed by Indra Water has been named, is found to be user-friendly and convenient by Mumbai hospitals who have started using the equipment

Indra Water, a Mumbai-based start-up firm, has designed an innovative device that disinfects Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, N95 masks, coats, gloves and gowns used at COVID wards of hospitals for re-use within a short period of time. The device has been found effective in eliminating the coronavirus and is being used at several COVID hospitals in Mumbai and one in Telangana.

The disinfectant system developed by Indra Water employs a multistage disinfection process consisting of advanced oxidation, corona discharge and UV-C light spectrum to inactivate the viruses, bacteria, and other microbial strains present on the PPE, achieving more than 99.999 per cent efficiency, according to Abhijit VVR, one of the co-founders of Indra Water.

The 20-member start-up is engaged in treatment and disinfection of wastewater discharged from apartments, industries, factories, etc. A statement from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare quoted Abhijit as saying that the product took root from a simple, yet powerful and frugal idea of reusing rather than disposing.

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Less bio-medical waste; reduction in cost

As of now, all PPE kits, masks, gloves and other protective gear used by doctors and para-medical staff at COVID wards are disposed of after a single use due to the fear of infection. However, the growing use of PPE kits and other protective gear is leading to a huge pile-up of medical waste that is hazardous. Apart from harming the environment, such used material could also lead to the spread of the coronavirus infection if such bio-medical waste is not disposed of properly.

The other benefit is the saving on expenditure incurred on PPE kits and other protective gear by reusing them rather than disposing them after a single use. The issues related to availability of such gear could also be partially addressed with the disinfectant equipment designed by Indra Water that has been christened as ‘Vajra Kavach’ by the start-up. The system is being manufactured at Indra Water’s factory at Bhiwandi in Mumbai, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement issued on Monday (May 31).

Tested for coronavirus elimination

Vajra Kavach is a simple disinfection process that enables corona warriors to reuse their masks and PPEs

“The idea of Vajra Kavach was conceived during the nationwide lockdown in March 2020. We began to think about what exactly we could do to help the country fight the pandemic. We realised there was a huge demand for PPE Kits and N95 masks and the nation was struggling to provide our healthcare workers with the necessary medical requirements. That is when we came up with an idea – a simple disinfection process that enables corona warriors to reuse their masks and PPEs,” Abhijit explained.

“Our system is able to achieve a 1,00,000-fold reduction in the number of micro-organisms. In scientific terms, tests showed that we got 5 log (99.999 per cent) reduction of viruses and bacteria,” he added. ‘Log reduction’ is a term used to signify the relative number of living microbes that are eliminated after disinfection. Since PPE kits are larger in size compared to other protective gear used in COVID wards, the initial equipment of Indra Water was designed accordingly. Now the company is working on a compact version that could be more versatile.

Indra Water was set up with a grant from the Department of Science & Technology’s NIDHI-PRAYAS through Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay. The start-up is among the 51 firms which were funded and supported under Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH), an initiative by National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB), Department of Science and Technology (DST).

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Mumbai hospitals— Indra Water’s first customers

The UV disinfection of the PPE by ‘Vajra Kavach’ has been found user-friendly and convenient by hospitals where the equipment has been installed. “The system is adequate for our 25-bed COVID Care Center and it will help us use fewer PPEs,” said Dr Nisha Shah, Chief Medical Officer, IIT Bombay Hospital. Mumbai’s Cama Hospital, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Hospital, St. George Hospital are other hospitals in Mumbai where Vajra Kavach disinfection system has been installed.

A hospital at Warangal in Telangana has also been provided with a PPE disinfectant. Around 10 ‘Vajra Kavach’ systems have already been installed in various hospitals in Mumbai. After talking to a lot of healthcare workers, Abhijit learnt that the system is being used by them to disinfect not only N95 masks and PPE kits, but also lab coats, masks, aprons, face shields, stationery material in the ICU, basic medical equipment, gears and other medical cloth materials as well.

The validation and testing of the system was done by the Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering at IIT Bombay. ‘Vajra Kavach’ went through a very long trial and testing process. It was tested with Escherichia virus MS2 (a single-stranded RNA virus and a well-known surrogate of human respiratory viruses such as influenza virus and coronavirus) and E.coli strain C3000.

Full loads of the virus and bacteria samples were placed on a PPE. The PPE was then placed inside the ‘Vajra Kavach’ for disinfecting. After the disinfection cycle time, the PPE was removed and the sample was rechecked to assess the growth rate and log reduction of the virus.

Indra Water’s system employs a multistage disinfection process consisting of advanced oxidation, corona discharge and UV-C light spectrum to inactivate the viruses, bacteria, and other microbial strains present on the PPE, achieving more than 99.999 per cent efficiency. Every component used in the manufacturing of this disinfection system is made in India and nothing is imported, according to Abhijit, making it a completely Made in India product

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