A few months ago, NAHAM News reported on the spread of so-called “superbugs” in medical facilities across the county (Superbugs are invading U.S. Healthcare Facilities). These bugs, such as Staphylococcus and Clostridium difficile, are difficult to prevent and impossible to treat. The superbugs come into medical facilities without warning and infect patients regardless of the patient’s original illness. Try as they might, doctors have not been able to come up with a way to fight the infections; even the strongest antibiotics haven’t worked. Without a treatment method, hospital staffs have turned to a preventative approach with the strategy of stopping the bugs from infecting patients in the first place.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore are trying new technologies in their struggle to prevent these bugs, and for the past few years they have been using robots. According to NPR, the robots that the hospital is now using spray a toxic dose of hydrogen peroxide into hospital rooms to sanitize the room and kill any bacteria. This treatment could have been helpful in a case at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where bacteria were found in the pipes below a patient’s sink.
In order for the treatment to be safe and effective, the room must be sealed and the hydrogen peroxide must touch all the surfaces. A technician prepares each room by sealing up air vents and opening drawers. The tech then tapes the door shut from the outside before staring the robot. For 30 minutes, the hydrogen peroxide mist is sprayed in the room. While the hydrogen peroxide mist is odorless and colorless, any person entering the room would be unable to open eyes or breathe. Once the hydrogen peroxide mist has done its work, the robot emits a second chemical that turns the hydrogen peroxide to water, making it safe to enter and prepare the room for the next patient.
The robots, comparable in appearance to a domestic washing machine or trash can, have proven effective. Johns Hopkins recently reported that the number of untreatable infections has fallen by 64 percent since the hospital began using the robots. While these robots are not a modern day cure-all, Johns Hopkins is hoping that other hospitals follow suit and start using their own hydrogen peroxide robots.