Nursing News

Robot Fights Infections with Ultraviolet Light

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By Christina Orlovsky Page, contributor  

January 5, 2012 - In their futuristic cartoon world, the Jetsons relied on Rosie the Robot to keep their space-age home spick-and-span. We may not yet be in the Jetsons’ age of flying automobiles, but some health care facilities are employing robot-like technology to keep their floors and surfaces clean of deadly superbugs and keep their patients free of hospital-acquired infections.

Courtesy of Xenex Healthcare Services, a San Antonio, Texas, device manufacturer co-founded in 2008 by epidemiologists Mark Stibich, Ph.D., and Julie Stachowiak, Ph.D., the pulsed xenon ultraviolet (UV) room disinfection system goes where no human cleaning system can go to eliminate deadly microorganisms and prevent infections like C.diff, MRSA and VRE--bugs that kill roughly 100,000 patients and cost hospitals billions of dollars each year.

“Hospital cleaning teams are not able to disinfect all the surfaces in patient rooms--in fact, research shows that more than half of surfaces remain untouched,” explained Stibich, Xenex’s chief scientific officer. “Additionally, deadly superbugs are showing resistance to cleaning chemicals, making pathogens even more difficult to remove and eliminate.”

That’s where the Xenex system’s unique UV disinfection technology comes into play.

“In just 5-10 minutes per room, the Xenex device eliminates viruses, bacteria and bacterial spores, which can spread between patients, staff, visitors, surface areas and equipment,” Stibich continues. “Bacterial spores like C.diff are really tough because they can live in a hospital room for up to four months. The Xenex system is proven to deliver a germicidal dose of UV-C light capable of killing C.diff in four minutes or less.”

Ultraviolet light has long been known to have the power to damage microorganisms. The Xenex system takes that power to the extreme, using pulse xenon ultraviolet light, which is 25,000 times more intense than other UV technologies. The xenon gas is inert and harmless and the pulse system generates at such high energy that only minimal exposure is necessary, making disinfection safe, quick and effective.

“The bright light damages the DNA of the microorganism so that it can no longer reproduce and is no longer infectious,” Stibich explains.

Used throughout health care facilities--from patient rooms to operating room suites, from the emergency department to equipment rooms, bathrooms and public areas--hospitals across the country are reporting reduced contamination levels at high rates. Additionally, a study conducted at MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas, found the Xenex system to be superior to bleach in eliminating C.diff, with the device eliminating 95 percent of the bacteria from hospital rooms.

Recently, the Xenex system was even employed to clean up after Mother Nature. The company offered free room disinfection and flood remediation to facilities impacted by Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, disinfecting ceilings and walls to prevent mold and bacteria growth.

With abundant recent research demonstrating the effectiveness of using ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses, including research from North Carolina State University aimed at using LED devices with UV light, the Xenex technology and others like it may just signify the beginning of the end of the war against superbugs.

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