Shining a (UV) light on hospital infections

Every year, 1.7 million Americans acquire infections from their stay in a hospital, nearly 100,000 of which are fatal. These infections, which occur as a result of bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff), are something health systems are constantly looking for new ways to battle. One of the best ways is through keeping patient rooms and clinical spaces clean, which has sparked interest among health care systems in one particular method as more studies compile evidence in favor of it: cleansing ultraviolet light.

UV light column
The UV light device, with its protective shell, used by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Services staff to control infections by killing harmful bacteria. (Photo: Penn Medicine News)

Testing of these lights at Penn began a little over five years ago as more studies provided its worth. Now, there is a rolling, six-foot-tall UV light device assigned to each floor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, with many units using one to rid their rooms of harmful organisms after every single discharge.

“From where we were in 2013 to where we are today is a big leap,” says Steve Gaynes, the regional director of Operations and Environmental Services at Penn Medicine. “Adding UV to our process has been a real saver of lives.”

That sentiment isn’t simply anecdotal. Infection numbers kept by the hospital show an approximate two-thirds reduction in patients who acquire infections at HUP.

Overall, since the lamps were first introduced at HUP in 2013, the number of patients with bacterial infections has reduced by about two-thirds. 

Read more at Penn Medicine News.