Published: June 21, 2011
Updated: June 21, 2011
A device resembling a tall, slender R2-D2 from Star Wars bathes a room in blue light, which streams through the blinds into the hallway of the patient care unit. Inside ensues a battle of good versus evil, light versus infection.
“This is a new, big thing,” says Duke’s Luke Chen, MD. Chen is co-investigator of a study that will test the effectiveness of standard chemical cleaning practices compared to standard chemical cleaning plus a new ultraviolet light technology for cleaning hospital rooms and reducing the spread of health-care-associated infections.
“This portable ultraviolet light device creates a radiation sea that can clean almost all surfaces in a room in 20 minutes,” says Chen. “In the case of hardier bacteria like C. difficile, the cleaning takes approximately 40 minutes.”
The technology is part of a Duke study funded by a $10-million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Prevention Epicenter Program, which supports efforts to develop and test innovative approaches to reducing infections in health care settings.
The ultraviolet light devices, called Tru-D (for total room ultraviolet disinfection), will be placed in the rooms of patients (after they’ve been discharged) who had contagious conditions or infections due to drug-resistant organisms like MRSA.
Investigators use fluorescent markers to identify high-touch areas in hospital rooms, such as bedrails. Afterwards, black light is used to assess how well the room was cleaned.
“We know that cleaning in a hospital is important, but the actual methods and techniques have been poorly and inadequately studied,” says Daniel J. Sexton, MD, principal investigator of the study and director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON), a collaboration between Duke and 39 community hospitals focused on improving infection control programs.
This method will be utilized in several DICON-affiliated hospitals, Duke University Health System hospitals, UNC Hospitals, and the Durham VA Medical Center. The information gained from using these new cleaning methods will be applied in DICON hospitals and could potentially impact other hospitals across the country.
“Prior small-scale studies suggest objects in patient rooms, such as television remotes, bedrails, and equipment, commonly become contaminated with bacteria,” says Sexton.
“We have to be certain that these items are clean when a new patient enters the room in order to reduce the risk of spreading infections. A study like this is every bit as important as a study of safety in a Boeing 747.”