People who visit hospitals are expecting care and treatment, not additional complications, yet approximately 1 in 25 patients contract healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in U.S. hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Standard cleaning procedures usually involve manual application of detergents and disinfectants. Unfortunately, the efficacy of these manual cleaning procedures can vary considerably. In fact, less than 50% of patient room surfaces are properly cleaned.
Given the rather poor effectiveness of manual cleaning, the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is investigating alternate, so-called, no-touch methods, including short-wavelength light, ranging from ultraviolet (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. The expectation is that decontamination of room surfaces will improve when the human element is removed.
LRC researchers tested a new hybrid lighting system, developed by GE Current, a Daintree company, which was designed to provide both visible white light and disinfecting UV-A. The system was retrofitted into a modern hospital newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at the Memorial Beacon Children’s Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. The UV-A dosing was set to levels calculated to be safe for human occupation. Eight-hour exposures on counter surfaces were effective for 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. An analysis of photodegrading effects suggested that UV-A resistant equipment and furnishing may need to be installed with this technology. The findings were recently published in Lighting Research & Technology.
“This lighting technology offers great promise in hospital applications,” said Jennifer Brons, Director of Design Demonstrations at the LRC. “We are currently planning future demonstrations in another hospital unit with greater bioburden.”
“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.”