AAMI News March 2016

New Technology Shines Light on Hospital-Acquired Infections

People are usually admitted to hospitals to get better; however, on any given day, about 1 in 25 patients acquires at least one infection while hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With reducing hospital-acquired, or healthcare-associated, infections a top priority for healthcare delivery organizations, novel solutions, such as blue-violet light fixtures, have emerged.

This approach was highlighted by the ECRI Institute, an independent nonprofit organization that researches the best approaches to improving patient care, as a technology poised to affect care delivery in 2016.

Hospitals already use ultraviolet light to kill germs, but this usually occurs when patients are not in the room, as UV wavelengths can damage skin cells. At least two sets of lights are in development that employ a narrow band of light in the blue-violet spectrum to kill harmful bacteria in the air and on surfaces. Because this technology utilizes visible light, its developers say it can be used while patients and caregivers are in the room.

“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,” said Professor John Anderson in a news release. He was part of the team that developed the High Intensity Narrow Spectrum Light Environmental Disinfection System at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.

Studies have shown that blue-violet light excites molecules within bacteria, producing toxic chemicals that destroy bacteria such as Clostridium difficile. C. diff is the most common pathogen responsible for hospital-acquired infections, according to a 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and it kills about 14,000 people in the United States each year.

According to ECRI, early evidence shows blue-violet LED lights can significantly reduce bacterial loads, but no data are available that show reductions in patient infection rates.

Some experts caution that the full impact of blue-violet light may not be fully understood, and there is a need to consider the possibility of unintended consequences. For example, they question whether its use might degrade the packaging of products found in hospital rooms.

Upcoming Stakeholder Event

AAMI, in collaboration with the American Hospital Association, the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and The Joint Commission, will convene a multidisciplinary stakeholder event Sept. 29–30 in Herndon, VA, to address hospital-acquired infections associated with the use of healthcare technology. For more information, contact Deborah Reuter at dreuter@aami.org.