New solutions prompted by both the federal government and medical insurers' increasing refusal to cover treatments for hospital-gained infections
They kill at least 100,000 people every single year, and the collective medical costs associated with treating people who contract them tops $30 billion a year, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics. But hospital "superbugs" have a new contender in the fight for people's lives that involves the use of both roving and stationary robots designed to kill superbugs with ultraviolet (UV) light, hydrogen peroxide, and various other alternative interventions.As reported by USA Today, superbug-fighting robots and other novel equipment are increasingly turning up at U.S. hospitals where deadly superbugs are on the rise. An estimated one in 20, or five percent, of patients now pick up a threatening superbug infection they did not previously have before being admitted to the hospital -- and this number is rising all the time. As a result, both the federal government and medical insurers are increasingly refusing to cover treatments for these hospital-gained infections, which is leading some hospitals to opt for new measures to control the problem."Machines that resemble 'Star Wars' robots and emit ultraviolet light of hydrogen peroxide vapors" are among the many new and unusual approaches being taken by hospitals to control superbugs, according to USA Today. "Germ-resistant copper bed rails, call buttons and IV poles. Antimicrobial linens, curtains and wall paint."One particular product that is gaining attention, though, is the Xenex system, which is claimed to be the "fastest, safest, and most cost-effective way to automate room disinfection and increase patient safety," according to its manufacturer. The company also claims that its product is 20 times more effective than standard chemical cleaning at eliminating potentially deadly superbugs like methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a diarrhea-causing intestinal bug that causes roughly 14,000 U.S. deaths annually."If you kill C. diff, you kill everything else," says Dr. Mark Stibich, one of the doctors who helped Xenex develop the UV sanitation product, as quoted by Forbes. According to Dr. Stibich, the bulbs in the machine send an electric charge through argon or neon gas to send a blast of broad spectrum UV light utilizing harmless xenon gas rather than toxic mercury - and it completes its work in just 10 minutes.
UV sanitation machines picking up slack where all other interventions have failed
According to reports, C. difficile is more difficult to treat than even MRSA because alcohol-based hand sanitizers are ineffective at ridding it from skin and other surfaces. At this point, experts have no other recommended option besides completely bleaching all hospital rooms, which is labor intensive and could cause other problems due to excessive chemical exposure - and like most other conventional interventions, even bleaching appears to be a failing method, according to some experts. So hospitals are experimenting with other alternative options.
The Xenex portable UV-sanitizing machine reportedly costs $125,000 per unit, but it can be rolled in and out of rooms easily and is capable of killing not only C. difficile but many other bugs that might be lurking on hospital bed rails, linens, and even television remotes. The Texas-based company has already leased or sold machines to 100 U.S. hospitals, according to USA Today, and the industry itself is expected to nearly triple from $30 million to $80 million in the next three years.
"We did all the recommended things," says nurse Linda Riley, who is in charge of infection prevention at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Massachusetts, as quoted by USA Today. The UV sanitation machine, however, has been a lifesaver for the facility, affirming the results of a small observational study that found C. difficile infections rates dropped by half, and C. difficile death rates by 700 percent, in the two years since the machine was purchased.