October 24, 2012

UV Light Kills Bacteria In Hospital Rooms

A new study revealed at last week’s Infectious Disease Week 2012 displays how a particular spectrum of ultraviolet light eliminated bacteria that were drug resistant. The researchers believe that the UV light could be developed for future purposes to lower hospital-related infections.

Scientists from Duke University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina Hospital System conducted the project. The bacteria were found on places like bedside tables, door handles, and other surfaces in hospital rooms. They utilized short-wave ultraviolet radiation (UV-C) to remove almost all the Acinetobacter, Clostridium dificile or vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) found in over 50 patient rooms in two medical facilities.

“We’re learning more and more about how much the hospital environment contributes to the spread of these organisms,” explained lead researcher Dr. Deverick J. Anderson, an assistant professor of medicine, in a prepared statement.

The researchers from Duke and the University of California looked at the ability of UV-C to clean hospital rooms by removing three of the most difficult forms of bacteria. In particular, they examined general-medial and intensive care units in two medical centers in relation to patients who were infected by bacteria. The various types of bacteria can stay on hospital surfaces for long periods of time.

“Healthcare-associated infections are linked with significant morbidity and mortality,” noted Dr. Liiseanne Pirofski, a chair for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, in the statement. “Although there are multiple sources for these infections, the hospital environment itself can play an important role. The findings of this study suggest that UV light could hold promise for eliminating bacteria from hospital rooms and reducing the risk of infection with these difficult bacterial pathogens in the healthcare environment. That would be a result to benefit us all.”

Following the discharge of the patients, these scientists took multiple cultures from five different locations in hospital rooms and bathrooms. They obtained the cultures from areas that had a lot of contact with patients, including bed rails, remote controls, and toilets. Then, a special machine with eight UV bulbs was placed strategically in each of the rooms. Over a 45-minute period, the UV light worked on eliminating vegetative bacteria and bacterial spores. Another batch of cultures was obtained from the same locations in each room to compare the pre- and post-treatment bacteria counts.

Based on the findings, the number of bacterial colony-forming units decreased.

“We have a solid foundation to show that this approach succeeds in both experimental and real- world conditions,” Anderson said. “Now it’s time to see if we can demonstrate that it indeed decreases the rate of infections among patients.”

Dangerous to microorganisms, UV-C has been utilized in air, food, and water purification in the past. The light, which can sterilize laboratory requirement, was included in the study to show that it can help reduce the cost of treating infections. Currently, treatment of bacteria can range from approximately $4.5 billion to $11 billion. The findings of the study could impact the current state of hospital cleaning, where there is pressure to have a quick turn over rooms.

“We would never propose that UV light be the only form of room cleaning, but in an era of increasing antibiotic resistance, it could become an important addition to hospitals’ arsenal,” concluded Anderson, who also works as the co-director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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