Germ-Zapping Robot Deployed At First Oklahoma Hospital

Friday, May 10th 2013, 4:44 pm
By: News 9

St. Anthony Hospital received a new germ-blasting robot that promises to improve patient safety during a stay at the hospital.

The makers of the Xenex robot and medical professionals say the machine has revolutionized cleaning patient rooms.

More than 100,000 people in the United States die every year from sicknesses they get during visits to hospitals. The developers of Xenex aimed to reduce the number of infections acquired in hospitals by using ultra-violet technology to zap tiny organisms that transmit infections.

"Fifty percent of patient surfaces in a room after being cleaned, after a patient is discharged, still have contamination that could put another patient at risk," said Rachael Sparks, Technical Director of Xenex. "When UV hits a bacterial cell wall, it does damage to the cell wall and it also fries the DNA of the bacteria or the virus and so it can't reproduce and it dies."

Crews move the Xenex from room to room and in five minutes, the robot blasts away deadly pathogens and drug-resistant organisms that can survive and multiply in the tiniest places. Anywhere light can penetrate is treated by the robot's flashes of ultra-violet light. That should give patients peace of mind.

"Some of the organisms that make the paper occasionally are hard to kill," explained Dr. Jim Kirk. "[It's] hard to eradicate with our current methods of cleaning. We think this may be an important way to supplement our efforts here."

The most important surfaces to treat are high-touch areas like bed tables, hand rails, and faucets. The Xenex robot treats these areas as well as the harder-to-reach surfaces often missed by cleaning crews.

The robot spent four years in development before hitting hospital floors. The Xenex is in more than 100 hospitals across the country and St. Anthony's is the first in Oklahoma to have it.