Medical Technology
The Xenex system

Technology being used to Battle Persistent Superbugs in Hospital Settings

The Xenex system
Leigh Goessl's image for:
"Technology being used to Battle Persistent Superbugs in Hospital Settings"
Caption: The Xenex system
Image by: Xenex Healthcare Services
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As the use of antibiotics continues to rise, many bacteria have become resistant to the effectiveness of many drugs. These types of bacteria, known as "superbugs", are becoming a growing problem.

The term "superbug" emerged in 1985, according to Merriam Webster. And since that time it has become a familiar term that is used routinely as the problems associated with various superbugs continues to persist.

Hospitals have been trying ways to eliminate the passing of these germs by using germ-resistant copper bed rails, call buttons and IV poles. They are also using antimicrobial linens, curtains and wall paint.

These techniques are used on items people handle or touch frequently in a medical facility. But that doesn't seem to be enough. Insurance companies and the U.S. federal government's Medicare program are pushing facilities to do a better job. The government is reportedly even refusing to pay for some bills generated that were due to certain types of infections caught in the hospital setting.

An estimated 100,000 deaths each year are attributed to superbug infections, along with approximately $30 billion in medical bills or more, according to federal health officials.

"Someone with an infection that is resistant to a certain medicine can pass that resistant infection to another person," says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "In this way, a hard-to-treat illness can be spread from person to person. In some cases, the illness can lead to serious disability or even death."

Can technology help solve this growing problem?

Current media reports indicate that some hospitals have acquired new technologies to fight superbugs.

According to the Associated Press (courtesy Yahoo!), machines resembling "Star Wars" robots are being used to battle superbugs. What they do is emit ultraviolet light or hydrogen peroxide vapors and "zap" out some kinds of superbugs.

The company that developed the machine, Texas-based Xenex Healthcare Services, has sold or leased the machines to over 100 hospitals in the U.S., and has quickly created a multi-million dollar market.

Xenex notes the machine's features on its website. Features include:

• A fast, effective germicidal dose

• Uses reflectors and movement to aim the UV light at "high touch" surfaces

• Logs activity in a localized machine database so officials can track and analyze data

• Has a filter to block the bright pulses so even rooms made of glass can be treated comfortably

• Possesses a motion detection system and door guard which was designed with safety of patients, visitors and staff in mind

In Europe, using technology against the battle against superbugs is also underway. According to Nanowerk News, nanotechnology is being used to treat bed linens and other types of textiles.

Now that antibiotics are becoming more ineffective to battle certain types of bacteria, can technology solve the issue?

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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