The best place to enjoy a breath of fresh air may be a city bus, if Rice University students have their way. A team of graduating seniors has created a system for public transit that would continually clear the air of pathogens that can lead to tuberculosis (TB), flu and pneumonia.
The CityBusters Joseph Spinella, Jerry Lue, Sundeep Mandava, Grace Ching and Shidong Chen, all seniors have installed a $500 device on a METRO bus in Houston that has proven effective at killing 99.8 percent of the pathogens that circulate through the air-filtering system. The device, called FluProof, incorporates high-powered ultraviolet lamps that sterilize the air on the fly.
Spinella said research by others has suggested that buses, being enclosed public spaces, can provide an environment for the spread of TB and other diseases. "These are closed spaces where people are in close proximity, and you have an active air-conditioning system that's continually mixing up the air and spreading it to all the passengers," he said.
The Rice project stemmed from the results of a study called the Houston Tuberculosis Initiative (HTI). Researchers worked from 1995 to 2004 to identify patterns of transmission in the region that though the disease is still rare has the second-largest TB population in the nation. They were surprised to find a correlation between riders of city buses and cases of tuberculosis. A study published last fall in the journal Tuberculosis put numbers to the risk by pointing out that some routes, particularly long ones, indicated a higher number of cases of the disease.
The lead author of the HTI study prompted the Rice project when she decided to act on the research results. "We found we had a problem on the buses in Houston," said Marsha Feske, a former graduate student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and research fellow at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute. She is now an epidemiologist at the global b
|Contact: David Ruth|