Prototype, 7-foot-tall sanitizer automates disinfection of hard-to-clean hospital equipment

Jul 31, 2009
The Johns Hopkins designed and built "SUDS," a self-cleaning unit for the decontamination of small instruments. Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins experts in applied physics, computer engineering, infectious diseases, emergency medicine, microbiology, pathology and surgery have unveiled a 7-foot-tall, $10,000 shower-cubicle-shaped device that automatically sanitizes in 30 minutes all sorts of hard-to-clean equipment in the highly trafficked hospital emergency department. The novel device can sanitize and disinfect equipment of all shapes and sizes, from intravenous line poles and blood pressure cuffs, to pulse oximeter wires and electrocardiogram (EKG) wires, to computer keyboards and cellphones.

The invention, nicknamed "SUDS" for self-cleaning unit for the decontamination of small instruments, has already been shown to initially disinfect noncritical equipment better than manual cleaning, they report in the Annals of Surgical Innovation and Research online July 30.

Study senior author and surgeon Bolanle Asiyanbola, M.D., says the four-year SUDS project was initially sparked by the rapid rise in use of expensive disposable items, a trend linked to efforts to prevent bacterial infections among and between patients in hospitals.

Drawing on her experience in the operating room, where many batches of surgical clamps, retractors and scalpels have been sterilized, decontaminated and safely re-used for decades, Asiyanbola put together a team to end what she calls the "wasteful and unnecessary" practice of wiping down a lot of heavily used items with disinfectants and applying a lot of elbow grease. "If we can safely re-use equipment in the operating room, then we can do it elsewhere in the hospital for non-critical equipment," she says.

In the study, the Johns Hopkins team showed that SUDS was able to disinfect some 90 pieces of used emergency-room equipment, placing as many as 15 items in the device and "fogging" the equipment with an aerosolized, commercially available disinfectant chemical, or biocide, called Sporicidin. None of the electronic circuitry appeared to be damaged by the decontamination process. Instruments tested were of the type that comes in direct contact with a patient's skin, the body's key barrier to infection.

Repeated swabbing and lab culture testing of each decontaminated instrument showed that all items remained free of so-called gram-positive bacteria for two full days after cleaning, even after the equipment was returned to the emergency department and re-used. On the bacteria-free list were such potentially dangerous superbugs as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).

By contrast, testing of an equal number of similar items that were manually scrubbed down with a disinfectant solution, called Airex, showed that 25 percent of the devices had bacterial growth after two days, including growth of potentially dangerous gram-positive bacteria, such as MRSA and VRE, as well as gram-negative type bacteria, most notably, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Acinetobacter baumannii, plus some types of fungi.

"Our study results with the prototype offer strong evidence that more can be done to disinfect noncritical equipment through automated decontamination processes in heavily trafficked areas of the hospital," says Asiyanbola, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "We believe this SUDS device has the potential to further protect our patients and staff from hospital infections and save health care dollars by making it possible to clean and re-use more kinds of hospital equipment."

The Hopkins inventors, who have patent applications pending, say more studies must be done to determine if SUDS is effective for other hospital superbugs, notably, Clostridium difficile.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Explore further: Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cellphones may spread superbugs in hospitals: study

Mar 06, 2009

Cell phones belonging to hospital staff were found to be tainted with bacteria -- including the drug-resistant MRSA superbug -- and may be a source of hospital-acquired infections, according to study released Friday.

UV lotion lights the way to cleaner facilities

May 11, 2008

A team of Canadian scientists using a lotion which glows under ultraviolet light have shown that up to a third of patient toilets are not properly cleaned. Their findings, published in BioMed Central’s journal, BMC Infectious Di ...

'Alien'-type viruses to treat MRSA

Apr 01, 2008

New methods that involve sticking thousands of bacteria-killing viruses to wound dressings are offering ways to prevent hospital operating theatres from spreading infections, scientists heard today at the Society for General ...

Can we 'wipe out' MRSA?

Jun 03, 2008

Three basic principles is all it could take to reduce the incidence of MRSA in hospitals according to a new research by Cardiff University.

Recommended for you

Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

4 hours ago

Each year thousands of students enroll in medical schools across the country. But just how many feel they've been disrespected, publicly humiliated, ridiculed or even harassed by their superiors at some point during their ...

Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

13 hours ago

When the young Thai woman saw an online ad seeking surrogate mothers, it seemed like a life-altering deal: $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but couldn't conceive.

Nurses go on strike in Ebola-hit Liberia

13 hours ago

Nurses at Liberia's largest hospital went on strike on Monday, demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

User comments : 0