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Swatting the superbugs.

ADVANCES IN MEDICINE HAVE EXTENDED LIFE expectancy and generally performed miracles. They have also had some unintended consequences: widespread antibiotic use has made some strains of infection harder to kill. Multiple-drug-resistant bacteria have become hospital superbugs and are a serious threat to patients.

Infection control experts at The Johns Hopkins Hospital have enlisted robot-Like devices in the war against the superbugs. In a recent study, they have found that treatment of hospital rooms by these decontamination systems, which were first used to control BARS, can kill and prevent the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. The treatment disperses a bleaching agent into the air and then detoxifies the chemical.

Researchers studied the use of hydrogen peroxide vaporizers--first deployed in several Singapore hospitals during the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or BARS, and Later stocked by several United States government agencies in case of an anthrax attack.

The Johns Hopkins team placed the devices in single hospital rooms after routine cleaning to disperse a thin film of hydrogen peroxide across all exposed hospital equipment surfaces, as well as on floors and walls, said Trish Perl, an infectious disease specialist and the study's senior investigator.

Results showed that the hydrogen peroxide treatment reduced by 64 percent the number of patients who Later became contaminated with any of the most common drug-resistant organisms, Perl said.

After a room has been cleaned, the vents are covered and two devices placed inside. The door to the room is closed. One device, the Larger of the two, disperses hydrogen peroxide into the room, Leaving an almost invisible Layer--2 to 6 micrometers thick--on all exposed surfaces, said Pamela Lipsett, surgeon and study co-investigator.

Because hydrogen peroxide can be toxic to humans if ingested or corrosive if Left on the skin too long, the second, smaller device is activated to break down the bleach into its component parts of water and oxygen. The entire decontamination procedure takes about an hour and a half, Lipsett said.

The devices were provided by Bioquell Inc. of Horsham, Pa.

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Title Annotation:TECH BUZZ; infection control
Author:Thilmany, Jim
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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