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Light Technology Combats Hospital Infections
Nov 2010
GLASGOW, Scotland, Nov. 15, 2010 — A pioneering lighting system that can kill hospital superbugs — including MRSA and C. diff — has been developed by at the University of Strathclyde.

The technology decontaminates the air and exposed surfaces by bathing them in a narrow spectrum of visible-light wavelengths, known as HINS-light.

Clinical trials at Glasgow Royal Infirmary have shown that the HINS-light Environmental Decontamination System provides significantly greater reductions of bacterial pathogens in the hospital environment than can be achieved by cleaning and disinfection alone, providing a huge step forward in hospitals' ability to prevent the spread of infection.

This novel decontamination technology was discovered and developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts including professor Scott MacGregor, an electrical engineer; professor John Anderson and Dr. Michelle Maclean, microbiologists; and professor Gerry Woolsey, an optical physicist.

“The technology kills pathogens but is harmless to patients and staff, which means for the first time, hospitals can continuously disinfect wards and isolation rooms,” said Anderson. “The system works by using a narrow spectrum of visible-light wavelengths to excite molecules contained within bacteria. This in turn produces highly reactive chemical species that are lethal to bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and Clostridium difficile, known as C. diff.”

Anderson (left) and Maclean.

"The clinical trials have shown that the technology can help prevent the environmental transmission of pathogens and thereby increase patient safety," Maclean said. 

The technology uses HINS-light, which has a violet hue, but the research team has used a combination of LED technologies to produce a warm-white lighting system that can be used alongside normal hospital lighting.

“New approaches to disinfection and sterilization are urgently needed within the clinical environment, as traditional methods have significant limitations,” said MacGregor, dean of faculty and 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 problems with compliance.

HINS light and petri dish.

“HINS-light is a safe treatment that can be easily automated to provide continuous disinfection of wards and other areas of the clinical environment. 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.”

The technology was developed in Strathclyde's pioneering Robertson Trust Laboratory for Electronic Sterilization Technologies, which is dedicated to controlling infection in today's health care environments.

The research has been supported by the University of Strathclyde, The Robertson Trust and the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Program, which supports the precommercialization of leading-edge technologies emerging from Scotland.

For more information, visit: 

BiophotonicsC.diffClostridium difficileConsumerEnvironmental Decontamination systemEuropeGerry WoosleyGlasgow Royal InfirmaryHINS-lighthospital superbugshospitalsisolation roomsJohn Andersonkilling pathogensLED technologieslight sourceslight technologymeticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureusMichelle MacleanMRSApthogensResearch & TechnologyScotlandScott MacGregorUniversity of Strathclydevisible-light wavelengthsLEDs

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