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New research suggests ultraviolet (UV) light may work to reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that infection transmitted to patients in a healthcare setting leads to the death of almost 100,000 people per year.  Microbes are opportunistic and thrive in healthcare facilities where hygiene and sterilization procedures might be lax.  Hospital buildings, from drain to roof tile are home to adaptive, resistant germs that can infect the next vulnerable patient.

Prominent Types of HAIs that Sicken Patients in US Hospital Facilities

  • Surgical site infections
  • Urinary site infections, often associated with catheters
  • Lung infections like pneumonia
  • Central line and bloodstream infections

Recently, study authors looked at a proprietary platform that delivers ultraviolet light for use in various healthcare settings like in operating rooms, on surgical tools, and surfaces within rooms in a hospital.

Ultraviolet (UV) light is light that falls within a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is not visible to the human eye.  Almost everyone though, has seen the effects of UV light on their skin when they tan, or felt the sting of UV damage after sunburn.  Any kind of tan—or sunburn—is evidence that the body is fighting back against the cell-damaging effects of UV light.

For microbes, certain types of UV light are deadly.  UV wavelengths damage cells and disrupt chemical reactions within the cells, making for an effective disinfectant.

In this industry-funded study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), researchers tested out a UV system with a 90-second disinfection cycle to see how effective it might be in killing dangerous infection causing germs.  The aim of the system, called “PurpleSun,” was to initially measure the infectious load on surfaces, then subject those surfaces with light designed to strike a surface at five different points.  The results?  Pretty good.

Using 3,000 microbial samples taken from surgical surfaces in operating rooms in three different hospitals in New York City, study authors found UV light reduced active microbial contamination by up to 97.7 percent.

This and other UV-disinfectant tools remain in development but may one day soon provide a powerful assist to reduce the risk HAIs pose to hospitalized patients across the country.

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