We’re outnumbered by germs trillions to one, and they evolve far faster than we do. And we’re woefully behind developing new antibiotics to treat the infections becoming resistant to the antibiotics we do have. However, there are solutions that are aggressively preventing infection in the first place and controlling outbreaks early when they are still treatable. Here are the new technologies transforming infection prevention.
We’ve learned that copper is a natural microbial. It naturally and continuously kills microbes. This has led to the incorporation of copper alloys into hard hospital surfaces that are touched a lot, minimising the spread of germs from such contact.
Another solution is using silver nanoparticles since silver also kills germs. And unlike copper, you don’t get problems when it is in direct contact with the patient for extended periods of time. This is why silver nanoparticles are being incorporated into cubicle curtains and staff uniforms. It is starting to be used in dressings, surgical instruments, and catheters.
UV light kills all germs it comes into contact with. Unlike antibiotics and some cleaning solutions, germs cannot develop resistance to it. So, we’re seeing UV lights use to sterilize areas, often mounted on robots that can expose supply room equipment and public spaces with UV without risking the safety of staff.
A side benefit of using robots is the low risk of error when decontaminating an area – it won’t miss a spot and creates logs like a robotic vacuum cleaner to show where it has been and when. While sterilization via UV robots is slower than some other means, a few cutting-edge systems can complete the task in 20 minutes per room.
Hospital-acquired infections affect (and infect) an estimated 4% of those who enter the hospital. The horror for many of these patients is that the diseases they pick up in the hospital are often the hardest to treat. Processes to control infections exist in hospitals, but they may not be followed properly. Or the procedures don’t cover risk factors that led to infected patients.
This has led to a new class of service provider: infection control consultant. They review the procedures in the hospital to determine whether new equipment, further training, or changes in procedure are necessary. They tell hospital administrators if they need to add new procedures to fill in the gaps of their current processes.
They study the design of facilities to look for little things that can spread disease, such as the lack of a patient bathroom toilet lid, resulting in C. Difficile bacteria becoming an aerosol when the toilet is flushed and contaminating surfaces in the room. Are soft surfaces sufficiently sanitised? Are there items being shared that aren’t being sanitised? Are little acts of comfort and convenience circumventing infection control methods? Failure to maintain proper hand hygiene is a depressingly common finding by infection control specialists, though the classic discovery that doctors’ ties were spreading disease among patients because they were not washed between visits show that improper hand washing is not always the issue.
Infection prevention is changing by the minute and new advancements are changing the way healthcare is approaching, leading to more thorough infection control.