Germ-Zapping Robots® Help Fight Superbugs (Children’s Hospital Association)


The latest germ-zapping technology is helping organizations reduce hospital-acquired infections.

Hundreds of rooms. More than 350 beds. And all of it requires daily cleaning. Every day, Environmental Services staff members at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) work to disinfect every surface. In doing so, the team plays a crucial behind-the-scenes role in preventing infections and keeping patients safe.

Now, on top of scrubbing, spraying, mopping and wiping, the team can add another action—zapping. “We arm our doctors and nurses with high-tech tools and surgical robots, and now we’re doing the same for those on the front line of our battle against infections,” says Jill Hoffman, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at CHLA.

As hospitals across the country look for new and innovative ways to battle pathogens and multi-drug resistant organisms that put patients at risk, CHLA has introduced four new non-human team members that can annihilate potentially lethal germs and bacteria lurking in hard-to-reach places.

The four germ-zapping robots—affectionately named Charlie, Ziggy, Phoenix and R2Clean2—use pulsed xenon ultraviolet (UV) light, thousands of times more powerful than sunlight, to quickly destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and bacterial spores. The portable disinfection systems takes about 15 minutes per room—for a total of about an hour when combined with traditional cleaning techniques.

These robots are effective against even the most dangerous pathogens, including Clostridium difficile (C-diff), norovirus, influenza and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). During a brief trial run with a robot earlier last year, CHLA says it saw a 10 percent reduction of infection rates in areas of the hospital tested. Other hospitals that have used the robots for longer periods have reported more dramatic reductions—more than 50 percent in some cases—in C-diff and MRSA infection rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health care-associated infections (HAIs) are responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths per year in the United States. Recent CDC data reveal there are about 1 million reported cases of HAIs in acute care facilities a year with one in 25 patients contracting an infection.

For decades, manual disinfection protocols have been the go-to method for battling pathogens, but these protocols are often inadequate in today’s world of powerful and resistant pathogens. Pathogens have developed resistance to the best antibiotics and even to some of the chemicals used to disinfect the environment—hospitals need new tools to combat these pathogens. Fortunately, the combination of this new pulsed xenon UV technology with revised policies and protocols is showing success in the battle against HAIs.

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