People who visit hospitals are expecting care and treatment, not additional complications; yet approximately 1 in 25 patients contract healthcare-associated infections in US hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, the efficacy of standard cleaning procedures can vary considerably – and in fact, less than 50 percent of patient room surfaces are properly cleaned.
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is investigating so-called ‘no-touch’ methods of cleaning. These include the use of short-wavelength light, ranging from UV to blue light (200 nm to 410 nm). Short wavelengths can kill pathogens through a variety of pathways, depending upon the wavelength, the duration, and the amount; but the expectation is that decontamination of room surfaces will improve when the human element is removed.
LRC researchers have tested a new hybrid lighting system developed by GE Current which provides both visible white light and disinfecting UV-A light. Their findings were recently published in the journal Lighting Research & Technology.
The system was retrofitted into a modern hospital newborn intensive care unit at a hospital in South Bend, Indiana. With the UV-A dosing set to levels calculated to be safe for human occupation, eight-hour exposures on counter surfaces proved to be effective in suppressing pathogens identified by the CDC as highly problematic for healthcare facilities.
LRC researchers also conducted a survey aimed at assessing the opinions of professional staff working in the NICU about the hybrid lighting system. Staff members accepted the hybrid lighting system, and the comments about the system were generally positive.
On the downside, an analysis of photodegrading effects suggested that UV-A resistant equipment and furnishing may need to be installed with this technology.
“Reducing healthcare-associated infections is critically important,” said LRC professor Dr Mark Rea. “Unfortunately, the prevalence of these infections is only expected to rise. The present findings should form the foundation for the next generation of this technology.”
The LRC is planning further demonstrations in another hospital unit with a greater bioburden.