New testing has found that xenon ultraviolet light — used by hospitals and some skilled nursing facilities for decontamination — does not damage N95 respirators.
The announcement from Xenex Disinfection Services, which makes the LightStrike system, follows a technical bulletin from 3M about fit and filtration tests after multiple decontamination cycles.
The intense germicidal UV light produced by Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots is able to deactivate viruses, bacteria and spores in a 5-minute disinfection cycle without damaging hospital materials or equipment.
“3M moved quickly to innovate and quickly determined that our robot’s intense pulsed xenon UV light would not damage the N95 respirators,” said epidemiologist Sarah Simmons, senior director of science for Xenex. “We hope that our frontline responders are soon able to access the new supplies they need and deserve, but in the meantime it’s gratifying to know that hospitals using our robots to decontaminate N95 respirators can do so without impairing the functionality of the protective equipment.”
A previous study found the pulsed xenon technology used by LightStrike decreased contamination by 88% on high-touch surfaces after using LightStrike and correlated that with a 32% decrease in urinary tract infections, a 20% decrease in respiratory infections, a 10% decrease in skin infections and a 54% decrease in hospital readmissions.
Similar machines are in use in some nursing homes across the U.S., and others share access to the robots with a larger healthcare system.
The portable LightStrike robot, operated by in-house staff, can disinfect a typical patient or procedure room in 10-15 minutes.
Based on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommendations regarding the reuse of N95 respirators, some hospitals are already using LightStrike robots to decontaminate N95 respirators between uses. Ultraviolet light can reduce the viral load that may be present on the respirators, but does not meet the reprocessing standard of sterilizing the respirators. Accordingly, Xenex said this method should only be used if there are no other methods available for sterilization. The company will not be seeking FDA approval for respirator decontamination.