UV light to control infection

Tackling the effect of pulsed xenon ultraviolet light in infection control as studied under a Japanese hospital setting

COVID-19 cases in Japan are still rising. As of writing, the daily average of new cases is up to 2,000, and patients are admitted only at designated hospitals.

And even though Yamagata University Hospital does not receive COVID-19 patients, the 637-bed facility is not taking any chances. It is strengthening its infection control systems and strategies to protect the hospital from asymptomatic COVID-19 patients.

Strict screening and temporary isolation for suspected patients are part of this strategy. Apart from this, it uses a novel technology to prevent the transmission of healthcare-associated pathogens.

Hospital Insights Asia speaks with Professor Keita Morikane, Director of the Division of Clinical Laboratory and Infection Control at Yamagata University Hospital and Advisor to the Board of Directors at Yamagata University, to discuss the efficacy of pulsed xenon ultraviolet light (PX-UV) in infection control at the hospital.

A study before COVID

Early this year, Prof Morikane, together with his colleagues, published a before and after study about the clinical and microbiological effect of PX-UV disinfection to reduce multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Yamagata University Hospital.

Professor Keita Morikane

Conducted in 2019, even before the onset of COVID-19, the study concentrated on no-touch environmental disinfection using UV devices for the hospital environment, the first research of its kind in Asia. After a manual terminal cleaning of patient rooms as soon as they are transferred and discharged, ICUs were disinfected using Terumo’s Xenex LightStrike. Results showed a 59% reduction of the microbiological burden in addition to manual terminal cleaning, thereby, proving PX-UV effective in disinfecting and controlling MDROs in the hospital.

Application during COVID

As of writing, Yamagata University Hospital maintains zero COVID-19 cases among its 2,000 employees. Prof Morikane attributes this to the location of their hospital, hence, a lower number of patients within the Yamagata prefecture. Still, even with a relatively safe environment for staff and patients, Yamagata University Hospital doesn’t put its guard down.

“As soon as the patient is discharged from the ICU, we disinfect the room with UV regardless of their status of colonisation and infection,” shares Prof Morikane. General wards are likewise manually cleaned and disinfected with UV. This may be an additional effect to doing manual cleaning, which can reduce microbiological burden by 81%, but the novel technology works to add an extra layer for prevention.

Prof Morikane, who has seen first-hand the technology’s efficacy in infection control, believes it is important to use PX-UV disinfection, especially in ICUs and other high-care units. “We can benefit by using Xenex LightStrike every time a patient is discharged and not just for patients with known drug-resistant bacteria colonisation and infection, because not all patients are screened for every drug-resistant pathogen,” he underscores. It might be possible that a patient’s colonisation status is unknown to us, hence, the contamination of the environment might occur without us knowing. However, with PX-UV disinfection every after patient discharge, we are able to eliminate this possibility, Prof Morikane adds.

The introduction of various novel technologies is an opportunity for the healthcare industry to perform better and prepare better for pandemics like COVID-19. PX-UV is just one of many tools that can help protect patients and hospital staff.