Study reveals that ultraviolet light eliminates deadly hospital-acquired infections

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Researchers say they nearly eliminated deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a study encompassing 50 patient rooms at two medical facilities by using a specific spectrum of ultraviolet light.

Short-wave ultraviolet radiation has been used to sterilize equipment as well as purify air and water. To test its effectiveness with hospital-acquired infections, however, researchers from two universities swabbed high-touch surfaces in hospital rooms where patients with Acinetobacter, Clostridium difficile or vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) had stayed.

The rooms were then treated with ultraviolet light, which was administered through a machine that had eight UV bulbs mounted on it. The machine was positioned in the room, with the bulbs turned on, for 45 minutes.

When investigators swabbed the same surfaces after the UV-light treatment, they found that the number of bacterial colony-forming units of Acinetobacter fell 98.1%, while such units of VRE dropped 97.9%. Although C. diff proved harder to isolate, researchers had similar success eliminating it.

"We would never propose that UV light be the only form of room cleaning, but in an era of increasing antibiotic resistance, it could become an important addition to hospitals' arsenal," said lead researcher Deverick J. Anderson, M.D.

The findings were presented at the first annual IDWeek, a joint meeting of infectious disease trade organizations.

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