Hospitals are supposed to be consumers’ first line of defense against disease, but even the places we expect to be safest can be dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in every 25 hospital patients contracts at least one healthcare-associated infection during their stay.1 Each year, over 1.7 million U.S. patients suffer from an infection while hospitalized, and about 99,000 of those die.2 How do we flip the script and help hospitals protect patients from preventable health hazards?
Hospitals around the world are taking note of staggering infection rates and deploying more solutions. Sales of disinfectant sprays, gels and wipes have grown in recent years-and the market keeps growing. The global healthcare surface-disinfection market alone is expected to reach over $542 million by 2020.3 Although these products and other solutions can reduce the germ count on surfaces, they’re expensive, generate excessive waste and often include dangerous chemicals like bleach.
Hospital laboratories play a critical role in infection control because they are responsible for preventing infectious disease outbreaks through quick, reliable monitoring and reporting. They diagnose the type of bacteria causing a patient’s infection and help identify where the infection was picked up. Labs are the first in the hospital to identify a MRSA outbreak4-for example, a bacterium that is resistant to many types of antibiotics-among other common hospital-acquired infections. It is crucial that these laboratory environments remain clean to prevent cross-contamination that could potentially confuse diagnoses. With compromised or inaccurate data, a hospital is powerless to stop an infection from spreading further.
New technologies are improving disinfection capabilities. Deep ultraviolet (deep UV) light-with a wavelength range below 290 nanometers-has been used for disinfection for more than a century, creating a sterile environment by preventing bacteria from reproducing on surfaces and in water. However, there are limitations to the technology that have restricted widespread application.
Deep UV technologies have traditionally been powered by mercury-vapor lamps. Although mercury lamps have made traction in delivering large-scale disinfection, they not only involve the use of one of the top ten chemicals of major public health concern,5 but they are also fragile, bulky and notoriously difficult to implement as they require constant maintenance and frequent replacement. If a mercury lamp is misused, it can create an extremely hazardous environment.
SEE ALSO: Hand Hygiene Compliance
Instead of vaporizing toxic mercury to generate UV light, deep UV LEDs use semiconductor technology to achieve similar benefits with additional key advantages. LED-based UV technologies completely eliminate the health risks associated with mercury and enable a new class of flexible applications. Deep UV LEDs are more compact, offer higher power density and power on instantly-making disinfection not only safer but also more efficient.
Thanks to recent advancements, deep UV LED technology is now available in small, millimeter scale source size-delivering immediate, hospital-grade disinfection power in a tiny footprint. This form factor enables unparalleled flexibility to incorporate into a range of point-of-use disinfection products, from self-disinfecting doorknobs, lab coat closets and stethoscopes to surface-disinfecting wands. With their short wavelengths and high power density, deep UV LEDs quickly deactivate the DNA of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, achieving up to 99.9999% disinfection in a matter of seconds.
Deep UV LEDs integrate easily into a variety of applications that will spur the next generation of health and hygiene products, providing cleaner and safer emergency rooms and clinics for people around the world. Imagine a handheld device that can disinfect a physician’s phone-one of the most germ-infested objects in a hospital. Or a device small and effective enough to disinfect a catheter seconds before it’s inserted. Dirty scopes6 and other medical devices have long been the culprits in numerous disease outbreaks, and germ-zapping deep UV LED technology is the answer.
Because of the epidemic of hospital infections, the healthcare industry is an ideal market for this innovative disinfection technology. But these mighty components are poised to go much farther, bringing new health protections to industries from hospitality to manufacturing to public transportation and beyond. Deep UV LEDs represent a critical advancement for the mission of the industry, promising to bring consumers around the world peace of mind while creating healthier and more productive societies.
Yitao Liao, PhD, is chief innovation officer at RayVio. Liao holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Boston University.
1. HAI Data and Statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hai/surveillance/
2. Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/washington/~cdcatWork/pdf/infections.pdf
3. Surface Disinfectant Market by Product (Hypochlorite, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Hydrogen Peroxide, Chlorhexidine Gluconate, Peracetic Acid, Phenol, Alcohol), Formulation (Sprays, Liquids, Wipes) – Global Forecast to 2020. Markets and Markets. http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/surface-disinfectant-market-231286043.html
4. Yagi T. Critical role of clinical laboratories in hospital infection control. PubMed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21229708
5. Ten chemicals of major public health concern. International Programme on Chemical Safety. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/chemicals_phc/en/
6. Petersen, M. Dirty scopes needlessly infected scores of patients, investigation finds. Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-senate-scopes-20160112-story.html