Saturday, June 23, 2012

UV Lights in Hospitals Could Reduce Spread of TB by 70 Percent

Sterilization of hospital air with ultraviolet light could reduce the internal spread of tuberculosis (TB) by as much as 70 percent, according to a study published in the journal PLoS Medicine. TB is a highly contagious respiratory disease that infects nearly nine million people around the world each year, killing two million of them. The disease is an increasing public health threat as antibiotic resistant strains continue to become more common. "When people are crowded together in a hospital waiting room, it may take just one cough to infect several vulnerable patients, said researcher Rod Escombe of Imperial College London. "Our previous research showed that opening windows in a room is a simple way to reduce the risk of tuberculosis transmission, but this is climate-dependent -- you can't open the windows in the intensive care ward of a Siberian hospital." Ultraviolet-C (UVC) light is already commonly used to sterilize empty operating rooms or ambulances. In prior studies, UVC light has proven effective at killing both normal and drug-resistant strains of TB bacteria by damaging their DNA. In the current study, researchers hung UVC lights in a Lima, Peru hospital ward containing 69 TB and HIV inpatients. Air from the ward was pumped either past the UVC lights or left untreated, then pumped into guinea pig cages on the roof. "The lights must be set high enough to ensure patients and health workers are not overexposed, but if the lights only treat air at that level, there will be little benefit," said researcher Cath Noakes of the University of Leeds. "To be most effective, ventilation systems need to create a constant flow of treated air down to patient level, and potentially infected air up towards the lights." After 535 days, 35 percent of the guinea pigs breathing untreated air had become infected with TB, and 8.6 percent developed symptoms of the disease. Among those breathing irradiated air, 9.5 percent became infected and 3.6 percent developed symptoms. St. Mary's Hospital in London has already made plans to install ultraviolet lights in its chest clinic. Source -

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