Hospitals facing antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” are turning to technology that looks like it came straight out of a sci-fi epic.
Over 100 hospitals in the US have purchased portable UV light-emitting robots from medical supply company Xenex Healthcare Services, reports the AP. These little lights reportedly clean surfaces of bacteria more effectively than traditional sanitary methods.
Infection has been a problem in hospitals as far back as the days of rampant tuberculosis and Spanish Flu. Although those were largely conquered, health care centers face powerful new challenges from bacteria like methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, colloquially known as C-diff. One in 20 patients leaves the hospital with infections they didn’t have when they came in, and bacterial infections result in about 100,000 deaths and $30 billion in additional medical costs each year.
Others aren’t certain the lights are worth the $125,000 price tag however, citing the volatility of the hospital environment. Dr. L. Clifford McDonald of the Centers for Disease Control says there has been no proof technologies like the lights lead to any drop in C-diff or MRSA infection rates. “Environments get dirty again,” he said, stressing that it only takes one touch from a doctor or nurse who didn’t wash their hands to contaminate a surface again, putting patients at risk.
Still, many hospitals have high hopes for the little machines. With one in 20 patients leaving hospitals nationwide with infections they didn’t have before walking through the doors, most healthcare providers are willing to try anything to save lives and cut down on care costs.