NEW YORK, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Ultraviolet C light disinfection on unoccupied patient rooms in hospitals significantly reduces C. difficile infections, researchers say in a new study.
The research was conducted by scientists from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. According to the study's authors, UV C light disinfection not only reduces the risk of patients developing C. difficile infections, but also saves between $350,000 to $1.5 million each year in healthcare costs.
"UV light disinfection is a fast, safe, and effective technology to reduce the risk of C. difficile infection associated with the hospital environment," lead author David Pegues said in a press release. "The success of this technology is dependent on Environmental Services employees as a critical partner in our ongoing efforts to eliminate hospital-acquired infections such as C. difficile and to improve patient safety."
In the study, scientists observed three hematology-oncology units at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania during a one-year period. UV disinfection protocols, they found, reduced the incidence of C. difficile by 25 percent among new patients compared to the year before. By contrast, units in the non-study group saw a 16 percent increase of infection rates over the same time period.
The protocols not only reduced infection rates, but did so without negatively affecting turnaround time for patient rooms. Cleaning only took five minutes longer compared to non-study units.
"These findings have real implications for both health systems and patients. The effectiveness and efficiency of UV-C robots make it a practical and cost effective technology that will benefit hospitals around the country and save people's lives," Pegues added.
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that infects about 500,000 people per year in the United States. The infection is typically acquired in a hospital or long-term healthcare setting, particularly after receiving antibiotics. Symptoms can range from abdominal pain to life-threatening colitis. C. diff is one of the most prominent causes of infectious diarrhea in the United States.