LED lighting system kills hospital superbugs… (that’s ‘bacterial’ superbugs)

A lighting system that kills bacteria, including superbugs. Fabuloso! Incroyable! Aye!.  Then again, what else would you expect with the increasing number of advances in the sciences and engineering that are uncovering even more benefits from rare earth applications.

The results of a two-year trial at Scotland’s Glasgow Royal Infirmary, published study in the Journal of Hospital Infection (Vol 76, Issue 3, Pgs 247 -251, Nov 2010), shows that the high-intensity narrow-spectrum (HINS) light was around 60 per cent more effective in killing bacteria and fungi than cleaning alone and it is harmless to staff and patients. The LED (rare earth phosphor-enabled)  technology, which can be used alongside or instead of traditional lighting, reportedly disinfects the air and exposed surfaces with certain violet wavelengths of visible light.

Essentially, these clinical trials show that the HINS-light Environmental Decontamination System (‘HINS-EDS) provides significantly greater reductions of bacterial pathogens in the hospital environment than can be achieved by cleaning and disinfection alone… a huge step forward in hospitals’ ability to prevent the spread of infection.

The clinical trials were carried out in a hospital isolation room used to treat burn patients. Bacteria on environmental surfaces within the room were sampled before, during, and after HINS-light EDS treatment. When the room was occupied by an meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)-infected burn patient, reductions in surface bacterial levels between 56% and 86% were achieved, with the highest reduction (86%) seen after an extended period of room irradiation by HINS light.

How does the HINS-EDS work? Apparently the light excites certain molecules in the bacteria, which produces lethally toxic chemicals and effectively causes the microbe to self-destruct. The system was effective against all bacteria that were tested, including MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C difficile). It is less likely however to be effective against viruses.

The pervasive nature of light apparently permits the treatment of air and all visible surfaces, regardless of accessibility, either through direct or reflected exposure to HINS-light within the treated environment. The technology kills pathogens but is harmless to patients and staff, which means for the first time, hospitals can continuously disinfect wards and isolation rooms.

There are a number of disinfectant technologies, but apparently few that are dangerous to microbes but benign to humans.  Decontamination methods involving gas sterilants or UV-light can be hazardous to staff and patients, while cleaning, disinfection and hand washing, although essential routine procedures, have limited effectiveness and problems with compliance.

The ceiling-mounted HINS – EDS light emits high-intensity 405 nm which has a violet hue,  is blended with light from white LEDs to make it suitable for environmental lighting. It was used alongside normal lightbulbs in the trial but could potentially replace them.

The technology was developed in Strathclyde’s pioneering Robertson Trust Laboratory for Electronic Sterilisation Technologies (ROLEST), which is dedicated to controlling infection in today’s healthcare environments. The research has been supported by the University of Strathclyde, The Robertson Trust and the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Programme, which supports the pre-commercialisation of leading-edge technologies emerging from Scotland.

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