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Hospital first in world to trial lights which kill superbugs

A HOSPITAL ward will be the first in the world to use light in the battle against superbugs.

DR MICHELLE MacLEAN: Said lights were harmless to patients.
DR MICHELLE MacLEAN: Said lights were harmless to patients.

The lighting system, which has taken a decade of research to develop, will be left on all day in a ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary's Intensive Care Unit.

The light is powerful enough to kill superbugs while posing no health risk to patients.

Medics believe it will make wards 90 per cent cleaner than is currently achieved using conventional cleaning and handwashing routines.

If the pilot scheme proves successful, it could reduce the toll of deaths caused by superbugs - about 5,000 in Scotland in the past decade.

The technology, developed by researchers at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, has previously been tested in single rooms at the hospital.

Fifteen of the lights have now been installed in a shared ward in ICU and will be switched on in the autumn.

The High Intensity Narrow Spectrum (HINS) light has a wavelength of 405 nanometres - just above UV - and is barely visible as a violet tinge. The light bathes the area with rays powerful enough to "excite" molecules in the bacteria and release chemicals that kill them.

However, HINS-light is not strong enough to damage the more complicated cells of mammals.

The creators hope the system will revolutionise hospital sterilisation and be sold around the world, ultimately saving millions of lives.

Researchers have blended the HINS-lights with LED lights to produce a warm white lighting system that can be used alongside normal hospital lighting, The system is switched off at night.

Dr Michelle Maclean, one of the university researchers, said: "The clinical trials have shown the technology can help prevent the environmental transmission of pathogens and thereby increase patient safety.

"While HINS-light is deadly to pathogens - such as MRSA (meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureusis) and C.diff (Clostridium difficile) - it is harmless to patients and staff and will allow hospitals to continuously disinfect wards and isolation rooms."

Dr Maclean added: "This technology is to work alongside cleaners rather than replace them.

"You will always need cleaners because you have general debris in the environment - and cleaning is required for aesthetics as well."

In 2012 it was revealed NHS boards had paid out more than £660,000 to the families of patients who died after catching hospital superbugs.

Scotland's worst outbreak of the superbug C. diff killed 18 people at Vale Of Leven Hospital, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, in 2007 and 2008. An inquiry report into the outbreak was delayed this year for a fifth time to allow for responses to those criticised in the report.

Last year a new strain of C.diff killed three patients at two different, unnamed hospitals with the NHS Fife region.

Jean Turner, executive director of the Scotland Patients Association, said: "I think this sounds like a great idea and congratulations to them for devising it - it is an issue we certainly need tackled.

"This is great research. Anything that enhances the ability to keep hospitals clean is very positive."

l Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has sought to reassure the public over fears Ebola could come to Britain, saying it was "most unlikely" it could spread within the UK. He did, however, describe the outbreak in West Africa as a "very serious threat".

Sierra Leone has declared a public health emergency to tackle the worst ever outbreak of the virus and will call in security forces to quarantine epicentres of the deadly virus, while Liberia will close schools and consider quarantining some communities.

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