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'Superbug' Zapper Tested

Photonics.com
Jan 2009
GLASGOW, Scotland, Jan. 6, 2009 -- A technology that uses a narrow spectrum of visible light to photodynamically inactivate the deadly skin staph infection MRSA and other so-called "superbugs" is now undergoing major hospital trials.

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde's ROLEST (The Robertson Trust Laboratory for Electronic Sterilisation Technologies) in Glasgow developed the high-intensity narrow-spectrum light (HINS-light) technology, which uses a narrow spectrum of visible-light wavelengths to excite molecules contained within bacterial pathogens. These molecules then produce highly reactive chemical species that are lethal to bacteria.

The HINS-light environmental decontamination system that has been developed using the technology employs low-illuminance lighting to bathe the air and all exposed surfaces and items, continuously disinfecting the environment. The method was discovered and developed at Strathclyde by a team including electrical engineering professor Scott MacGregor, microbiologists John Anderson and Dr. Michelle Maclean, and optical physicist Gerry Woolsey.

"New approaches to disinfection and sterilization are urgently needed within the clinical environment, as traditional methods have significant limitations," said MacGregor, who heads the department of electronic and electrical engineering. "Decontamination methods involving gas sterilants or UV light can be hazardous to staff and patients, while cleaning, disinfection and hand washing, although essential routine procedures, have limited effectiveness and compliance problems."

MacGregor said HINS-light is a safe treatment that can be easily automated to continuously disinfect hospital wards and other clinical environments.

"The pervasive nature of light permits the treatment of air and all visible surfaces, regardless of accessibility, either through direct or reflected exposure to HINS-light within the treated environment," he said.

Clinical evaluation of the system is being conducted with the support of £440,000 (about $655,000) from the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Programme.

For more information, visit: www.strath.ac.uk


GLOSSARY
illuminance
Luminous flux incident per unit area of a surface; luminous incidence. (The use of the term "illumination" for this quantity conflicts with its more general meaning.)
light
Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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