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Anne Arundel Medical Center


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Here Come the Robots

Hospital-acquired infections kill an estimated 100,000 Americans a year, and drug-resistant organisms have been gradually building immunity against even our strongest antibiotics. But this spring, Anne Arundel Medical Center deployed a new weapon in the war against bacteria.

Meet TRU-D--short for Total Room Ultraviolet Disinfector--an R2-D2-shaped portable robot that disinfects hospital rooms using ultraviolet light. Built by Lumalier, a Tennessee company specializing in UV disinfection devices, TRU-Ds are deployed at 102 hospitals around the country. Locally, they're used by Georgetown, Walter Reed, and Anne Arundel.

"We've known since the 1870s that sunlight reduces bacterial growth," hospital epidemiologist Mary Clance says, explaining that the bright-blue UV glow emanating from TRU-D disrupts the microbes' DNA synthesis, rendering them incapable of reproducing.

After a manual cleaning by the housekeeping staff, TRU-D is wheeled into the center of a hospital room, chairs and beds are moved from the walls, and drawers with equipment inside are opened so the UV rays can touch everything. The robot's sensors gauge the size of the room and adjust the dose accordingly; it usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes to cleanse the space.

Studies have shown that manual cleaning disinfects only 48 percent of hospital-room surfaces, while UV disinfection can get rid of 99.99 percent of pathogens. "Simple hand hygiene is not adequate," Clance says. "Things have changed a lot in terms of multi-drug-resistant organisms in the last decade. The old model from the 1840s was if we all washed our hands there would be no transmission of organisms. But that is not true."

Which is why, she says, we need TRU-D.

Read all of the 'Saving Lives with Science' pieces about our 2013-2014 Top Hospitals.

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Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 10/28/2014
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