With UV light against resistant hospital germs

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Eliminate multi-resistant pathogens with UV light?

Ultraviolet light (UV light) can be used to efficiently kill multi-resistant hospital germs, according to a US study. The scientists led by Deverick Anderson from the Duke University Medical Center in Durham used short-wave ultraviolet radiation to remove resistant bacteria in hospital rooms.

The spread of multi-resistant clinic germs has increased significantly in recent years. The pathogens are sometimes a considerable danger for patients, since they can penetrate the body through open wounds, for example, and the immune system is already weakened considerably in many patients. The common antibiotics have no effect on the resistant germs, which makes treatment significantly more difficult. According to the results of the US researchers, the spread of the pathogens in the clinics can be stopped with the help of short-wave UV-C radiation.

UV light for disinfection At the annual scientific conference on infectious diseases in San Diego, IDWeek 2012, the scientists from Duke University and the University of North Carolina presented their current study on the possibilities of combating resistant clinical germs with short-wave UV light. UV-C light has been used for years to disinfect water, other liquids, food and air. The now tested use against hospital germs is new. As part of their study, the US researchers examined the effects of short-wave UV-C light on the three different, relatively common clinical germs Acinetobacter, Clostridium difficile and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).

Dangerous resistant hospital germs The three types of bacteria considered can lead to considerable health problems for the patients. Acinetobacter is considered to be a possible trigger for wound infections, pneumonia and meningitis. As an intestinal bacterium, Clostridium difficile causes severe diarrhea in those affected, and the vancomycin-resistant enterococci can cause urinary tract infections, blood poisoning or even inflammation of the inner lining of the heart. Efficient removal of the pathogens in the clinics is therefore imperative to minimize the risk of so-called hospital infections.

Cleaning the clinic room with UV light The US scientists have now investigated how effective the use of short-wave UV light is against the multi-resistant germs. For this purpose, the doctors selected 50 hospital rooms in which there were previously patients who were infected with at least one of the germs. The researchers took samples from the surfaces that often come into contact with patients, such as the remote controls, the telephone handset, the door handles and the bed frame, in order to determine the germ concentration. A lamp with eight UV-C bulbs was then placed in the center of the rooms. After 45 minutes of radiation, the researchers checked the bacterial load on the surfaces again.

UV-C light efficiently kills resistant hospital germs According to the US scientists, the effect of UV light on the concentration of multi-resistant germs was quite convincing. The number of viable clinic germs on the areas has declined significantly. Acinetobacter's exposure decreased by more than 98 percent, VRE by 97.9 percent and also Clostridium difficile, a significant decrease in exposure was observed - however, the germ concentration was also significantly lower before the UV light use, report Deverick Anderson and colleagues. "We have provided solid evidence that this approach is successful in both experimental and real-world conditions," said Anderson, adding, "Now it's time to check whether the rate of infection among patients is actually decreasing “If the hospital room is disinfected with UV light. It was already known from earlier studies that short-wave UV light can also be used to combat the dreaded hospital germ MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

Improving hospital hygiene with UV light UV light disinfection could significantly simplify everyday work in the clinic, even if the US researchers said they would never suggest that UV light be the only form of cleaning the room. "But at a time of increasing antibiotic resistance, it could be an important addition," Anderson said. Because today the clinics are under enormous economic pressure to quickly move into vacant rooms. The time required to clean the clinic room is therefore often extremely limited, which can have an adverse effect on hospital hygiene. The UV light would be a good addition to conventional cleaning. According to the US researchers, the current study showed that the use of UV light can help reduce the estimated 1.7 million hospital infections in the United States. In this way, the estimated costs of up to eleven billion to treat these infections could be reduced, Anderson and colleagues report. (fp)

Read also on the topic of hospital germs:
Pilot project to combat hospital germs
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in sea water
Resistant bacteria in German hospitals
Infection risk in the hospital

Author and source information

Video: Coronavirus: How UV-C light is being used to kill germs - BBC World Service

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