Trending for around the last year and a half on the hospital cleaning and disinfection scene have been ultraviolet (UV) disinfection robots. Posited as a chemical-free and speedy alternative to more traditional cleaning methods, a handful of devices have hit the market.
UV disinfection works by using ultraviolet light to alter the DNA of present microorganisms, including virus and bacteria cells, effectively deactivating them. It is widely accepted the technology is effective in killing bacteria and had been widely used in water treatment. Now, it’s making its way into healthcare. Here are some applications these systems have been used for in the healthcare realm:
1. Room disinfection
A number of studies have found significant decreases in present bacteria after the use of UV disinfection. For example, some researchers have found UV devices, both delivering pulsed and continuous UV light, reduce the number of “colony forming units” of Clostridium difficile, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus on frequently touched hospital room surfaces after just 10 minutes of UV exposure.
Although UV light has been used in conjunction with manual cleaning processes at most hospitals, one study conducted by the Texas A&M Health Science Center tested the efficacy of a pulsed system as a standalone disinfection method. Like other studies, this one tested the occurrence of bacteria on commonly used surfaces in patient rooms, like the call button, bedrail, tray table, bathroom handrail, and toilet seat. Overall, the bacterial colony counts were reduced by around 73%.
2. Infection reduction
Lowering the number of bacteria would logically lessen the occurrence of infection, but there has been less study on their effect of hospital-acquired infections than one would hope. However, Trinity Medical Center found they were able to reduce surgical site infections (SSIs) using UV disinfection earlier this year. After implementing a disinfection system, Trinity saw their SSIs go from four cases in hip procedures and three cases in knee procedures to a collective total of zero.
A study from Duke Medicine found their occurrences of four superbugs in the patient population decreased by 30% after instituting a chemical and UV light combination disinfection method. Duke’s study is particular, because it focused on a specific patient population—those who were admitted overnight in a room that previously housed a drug-resistant infected patient.
3. Reinforce personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE), like gloves, masks, shoe covers, and gowns, are used by caregivers aiding infectious patients. PPE creates a physical barrier, blocking the bacteria from finding a new host. Researchers have studied the effect of UV light on ridding PPE of the Ebola virus. They found UV light reduced the virus on both a face shield and surgical gown after an exposure time of 5 minutes.
UV disinfection appears to have a solid foothold in methods tackling drug-resistant viruses and superbugs, and it is likely more applications will come to the light as more hospitals adopt and test the technology.