During the 1960s the extremely high death toll in Europe and America due to rheumatic heart disease (RHD) prompted cardiac surgery techniques and technology development. By the 1970s deaths due to RHD became practically nonexistent in the global north. However, the developing world was still much behind in this regard. It is hoped that the latest technology by Strait Access Technologies will help overcome that.

Rheumatic heart disease/CDC
Rheumatic heart disease/CDC

Strait Access Technologies, a startup that develops and manufactures cardiac-related medical devices, has come up with a solution for RHD. They have developed plastic valve technology that, besides being affordable, will also prove to be an accessible option for the developing world. This is a very useful and much needed for development considering that RHD causes 1.4 million deaths annually of which majority can be prevented by replacing or repairing valves.

RHD occurs because of a preceding group A streptococcal (strep) infection, also commonly known as strep throat. When strep throat is not treated the antibodies responsible for clearing up the bacteria in the throat end up affecting the heart valves and this can end up being fatal. Thus, although it has not been concluded as to what the reason is behind RHD being common in underdeveloped countries, one major contributing factor could possibly be access to antibiotics.

The medical director and chief executive of Strait Access Technologies is Professor Peter Zilla, also the head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital and Red Cross Children’s Hospital. He says that replacing the heart valves through surgery is one treatment for RHD.

“Since access to cardiac surgery is limited in these countries, it is crucial that our treatments for heart-valve diseases are not reliant on the specialized infrastructure needed to perform open-heart surgery, and the valve eliminates the need for continuous anti-coagulation medication,” Zilla said. The plastic heart valve technology developed by Strait Technologies can be inserted using non-invasive surgery and the procedure would cost less than what it costs in the global north.

While the high-tech surgery available currently can be accessed and afforded by only the rich and basically available in the developed parts of the world, it is hoped that this technology developed in Africa would close the gap in treatment between the richer nations and the underdeveloped ones. It is expected that these plastic heart valves would be ready to be used by the two to three years.


Author: Shawn Stevenson is a passionate blogger who loves to write on health and lifestyle. A Basketball freak and curious to know everything unknown.