Visible-light technology battles hospital infections effectively

A pioneering lighting system that can kill hospital superbugs—including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C.diff)—has been developed by researchers at the University of Strathclyde's Robertson Trust Laboratory for Electronic Sterilization Technologies (ROLEST) in Glasgow, Scotland, which dedicates itself to controlling infection in healthcare environments. The technology decontaminates the air and exposed surfaces by bathing them in a narrow spectrum of visible-light wavelengths, known as HINS-light.

Clinical trials at Glasgow Royal Infirmary have shown that the HINS-light Environmental Decontamination System provides significantly greater reductions of bacterial pathogens in the hospital environment than can be achieved by cleaning and disinfection alone, providing a huge step forward in hospitals' ability to prevent the spread of infection.

This novel decontamination technology was discovered and developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts, Professor Scott MacGregor (electrical engineer), Professor John Anderson and Dr. Michelle Maclean (microbiologists) and Professor Gerry Woolsey (optical physicist).

"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 Anderson.

"The system works by using a narrow spectrum of visible-light wavelengths to excite molecules contained within bacteria. This, in turn, produces highly reactive chemical species that are lethal to bacteria ... " continued Anderson.

The technology uses HINS-light, which has a violet hue, but the research team has used a combination of LED technologies to produce a warm white lighting system that can be used alongside normal hospital lighting.

"Decontamination methods involving gas sterilants or UV light can be hazardous to staff and patients, while cleaning, disinfection and hand washing, although essential routine procedures, have limited effectiveness and problems with compliance," said MacGregor.

"HINS-light is a safe treatment that can be easily automated to provide continuous disinfection of wards and other areas of the clinical environment. The pervasive nature of light permits the treatment of air and all visible surfaces, regardless of accessibility, either through direct or reflected exposure to HINS-light within the treated environment," continued MacGregor.

The University of Strathclyde, the Robertson Trust and the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Program, which supports the pre-commercialization of leading-edge technologies emerging from Scotland, all supported this work.

Posted by Lee Mather

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