Enhancing terminal room cleaning with UV light can cut superbug transmission

Adding ultraviolet-C light disinfection to standard terminal room disinfection practices can reduce transmission drug-resistant organisms by a cumulative 30 percent, according to a study led by Duke Health and published in The Lancet.

The trial took place from 2012 to 2014 at nine hospitals — three Duke University Health System hospitals, a Veterans Affairs hospital and small community healthcare settings.

Researchers tested four different terminal room disinfection processes and their effects on the transmission of four drug-resistant germs: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, Clostridium difficile and multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter. Hospitals tested the approaches in rooms where patients carried these germs and tested occupants afterward to see if transmission occurred.

Each of the following strategies was used in each hospital for seven months:

  • Standard disinfection using quaternary ammonium disinfectant (when C. diff was present, bleach was used)
  • Quaternary ammonium disinfectant paired with UV-C light disinfection using one cycle of the Tru-D SmartUVC system (when C. diff was present, bleach was used)
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Chlorine bleach paired with UV-C light disinfection

They found the most effective strategy was quaternary ammonium disinfectant followed by UV light. This strategy led to a 30 percent decrease in overall germ transmission and was especially effective against MRSA. However, the incidence of C. diff among exposed patients was not changed after adding UV light cleaning with bleach.

Adding UV light disinfection can increase room turnover time, but the study found turnover times increased less than 10 minutes when UV light was used. "This demonstrates that a strategic implementation plan can help a healthcare facility improve patient outcomes through the use of UV disinfection with minimal disruption of workflow," said Chuck Dunn, president and CEO of Tru-D SmartUVC.

The study's authors concluded, "[A] contaminated healthcare environment is an important source for acquisition of pathogens [and] enhanced terminal room disinfection decreases this risk."

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