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Germ-zapping robots help prevent infections at Stanford hospital

Hospital-acquired infections result in nearly 100,000 patient deaths per year and cost the health-care industry $30 billion annually. In an effort to save lives and reduce costs, Stanford Hospital & Clinics’ team of housekeepers added two new members: germ-zapping robots named Frost and Dazzle.

Today in Inside Stanford Medicine, my colleague explains why the hospital elected to invest in the disinfection robots and how the droids kill germs work. She writes:

Antibiotics are less and less effective against a certain set of infectious agents dubbed superbugs, so prevention has become the focus of more concerted efforts. Patient screening is a first step, followed by more stringent compliance with hand-washing and glove-use protocols. The third line of attack has been chemical, beginning with basics like bleach and other disinfectant chemicals. They are effective to a certain degree, but their application can erode the plastics-based equipment that typically populates hospital rooms. The chemicals can also produce or irritate chemical sensitivities in patients and hospital employees. Infection-control specialists have long sought more effective options with fewer potential side effects.

The robots chosen by Stanford represent one solution. They now are in place at about 100 other U.S. hospitals. Their germ-killing technology is based on ultraviolet radiation, long known at certain frequencies for its ability to sterilize and disinfect, powered by xenon, a colorless, odorless gas found in trace amounts in the atmosphere. The gas propelled the creation, in the 1930s, of strobe-light technology. It was also a component of early lasers. Ultraviolet light pulsed by xenon raises the energy level of the radiation’s antimicrobial effect and shortens the amount of time required for sterilization. It can take as little as 10 minutes for these robots to do their version of a hospital-room cleaning. The light can also get into nooks and crannies that are hard to human fingers to reach.

Previously: Ultraviolet light shows promise in reducing hospital infections and Harnessing evolutionary forces to develop more effective methods for treating superbugs
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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