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Germ-Zapping Robot Kills Hard-To-Clean Superbugs

A New Jersey hospital has employed a robot to do its dirty work.

Saint Peter’s University Hospital last week introduced the Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot that kills hard-to-clean bacteria.

The unassuming bot—with four wheels and a handle for transport—follows the environmental services staff, who clean the room first. LightStrike (for lack of a better name) then emits waves of ultraviolet (UV) light to destroy any remaining bugs.

“In infection prevention, our goal is to provide a clean, safe environment for our patients, their families, and our employees,” Amy Gram, director of infection prevention at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, said in a statement.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)—viruses contracted while receiving medical treatment—are major, yet preventable, threats to safety, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimated a whopping 721,800 HAIs in US hospitals in 2011.

“This latest technology provides an added level of protection in combating HAIs caused by pathogens,” Gram said of the Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot.

Using a high-intensity UV light to penetrate the cell walls of microorganisms (including mold, fungus, and spores), the android fuses their DNA and renders them unable to reproduce or mutate.

Once the environmental services staff finishes cleaning, the portable robot—like something out of Star Wars or Lost in Space—is wheeled in. All humans must clear out and let the machine run for 10 minutes in the room, and five minutes in the lavatory.

These Wi-Fi- and cellular-enabled machines are already killing bugs in more than 400 hospitals across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. They can also be found in Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense quarters, skilled nursing facilities, ambulatory surgery centers, and long-term acute-care homes.

“Anything that helps clean the room benefits patients,” Perry Zycband, manager of environmental services for Saint Peter’s, said. “They can know the room has this second layer of protection to destroy germs.”

The system claims to rid even the most dangerous of pathogens, like Clostridium difficile (C. diff), norovirus, influenza, Ebola, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

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