Harnessing the Power of UV-C for Infection Prevention

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly altered every aspect of how we live. With over 7M cases in the United States and +35M globally, there is no clear end in sight.

Yet, we can feel a sense of hope when we account for the wave of innovations becoming available to fight COVID-19 and adjust to a new normal. From healthcare companies leveraging new techniques for record-breaking vaccine development, to education start-ups accelerating development roadmaps to meet the needs of at-home schooling, to the technology companies shifting resources to COVID responses, and to the large clothing brands and small Etsy designers flipping their production to facemasks– the image of rapid innovation from all industries is clear. We are living in a time where we need to find alternative solutions to both new and existing problems, and thankfully, businesses are stepping up.

Heeding the call to action, the R-Zero team identified how we could help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and all infectious diseases and help people feel safer about returning to the places they work and play. As the pandemic was taking root, we noticed that a chat with a neighbor, co-worker or parent with school-aged children revealed a familiar top-of-mind concern, “Are the buildings we used to enter every day, like schools, offices, salons, gyms, restaurants and hotels, safe to return to?” We were inspired to address this challenge with a suite of modern disinfection solutions for the spaces we enter frequently. 

Democratizing access to UV-C technology used by hospitals 

Our search for inspiration took us to a place that is extremely difficult to disinfect but has some of the highest standards in the world – hospitals. As fast-paced businesses, with lots of traffic, communal spaces, and very sick people, hospitals manage to incorporate infection prevention into their daily routines. We know hospitals are far from germ-free, but wanted to bring some of their high standards for routing disinfection to other types of businesses. So, how do they do it? 

In addition to manual cleaning and other protocols, hospitals have relied on ultraviolet (UV-C) light for their highest risk areas, like surgical rooms and infectious disease wards. A study by Duke Health researchers revealed that using UV-C led to a decrease in hospital-acquired infections.1 Several preliminary studies have also found that it can lead to an inactivation of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.2

While UV-C has been a proven technology trusted by hospitals to reduce the spread of infection for decades, the challenge became, “Why can’t every business have hospital-grade disinfection?” From there, the R-Zero team committed to making it possible for every business, school, and facility to have daily access to affordable, touchless hospital-grade disinfection to augment their manual cleaning protocols.  

Why can’t every business have hospital-grade disinfection?

For directors of facilities, heads of operations, school superintendents and business owners suddenly thrust into the position of evaluating disinfection technologies, the task can appear daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we will demystify UV-C basics and explain how you can employ UV-C to strengthen your disinfection protocols and make your facilities safer.      

What is UV-C?

UV-C is a specific form of ultraviolet light with a wavelength from 200-280 nanometers. It destroys or inactivates bacteria and viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, E. coli, and influenza — by disrupting the molecular bonds of their DNA and RNA. Basically, the UV-C ray breaks through the outer membrane of microbes like yeast, mold, bacteria, viruses, or algae. When the radiation reaches the DNA and RNA, it destroys both – disrupting vital cellular function, like replication and prevents these microorganisms from infecting humans.  

The UV-C wavelength, invisible to the naked eye, is a natural component of sunlight but is entirely absorbed by the ozone layer and atmosphere.3 

History of UV-C light as a proven technology

The germicidal properties of UV-C have been well established and understood for over 100 years. In 1903, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Niels Finsen for his use of UV-C light to treat lupus vulgaris. UV-C was first used to sterilize drinking water in 1910 and it was introduced into HVAC installations in the 1920s to help control the spread of airborne pathogens. Notably, William F. Wells installed upper-room UV-C lamps in suburban Philadelphia day schools to combat the spread of measles. Subsequently, the schools without UV-C saw a 53.6 percent infection rate, while the schools with the lamps saw a 13.3 percent infection rate.

Why hospitals rely on UV-C

Hospitals have some of the highest disinfection standards in the world, and whole-room UV-C systems are a critical part of their multi-modal approach to reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). While traditional cleaning and the use of chemical wipes play an important role, studies show that this approach alone is only about 50% effective in the patient environment and over 30% of high-touch surfaces are missed. 5 However, a study of MRSA samples collected from patient rooms revealed that when manual cleaning was supplemented by UV-C light treatment, the bacterial counts were 93% lower than with manual cleaning alone.

While traditional cleaning and the use of chemical wipes play an important role, studies show that this approach alone is only about 50% effective in the patient environment and over 30% of high-touch surfaces are missed.

UV-C for businesses, schools, and facilities

UV-C light is an ideal disinfection solution for facility managers of dynamic environments with high-touch surfaces requiring frequent cleaning. 

According to R-Zero Chief Scientist Dr. Richard Wade, the former head of Cal/OSHA and a leading expert on environmental risk management, toxicology and microbiological and chemical contamination, “UV-C is extremely effective at sanitizing air and high-touch surfaces. Air and high-touch surfaces are what’s spreading the virus, and what we need to be concerned with.” Due to low touch time, ease of use and maneuverability, portable UV-C devices can be integrated into existing workflows with no additional staff or extra PPE required. Select devices, such as the R-Zero Arc, also feature an embedded LTE chip with GPS connectivity, empowering leadership to remotely monitor usage and compliance and share disinfection data with your employees, parents, and customers. 

“UV-C is extremely effective at sanitizing air and high-touch surfaces. Air and high-touch surfaces are what’s spreading the virus, and what we need to be concerned with.”

Dr. Richard Wade, R-Zero Chief Scientist, former head of CAL/OSHA

Germicidal UV-C is also a non-toxic and eco-friendly disinfection solution.  It quickly disinfects spaces without chemicals or pesticides and leaves a room safe for people to re-enter immediately after a cycle is complete. 

Dr. Brent Clark, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators and former superintendent, states, “I am extremely optimistic about germicidal UV-C as a whole-room disinfection solution for a school environment. Incorporating this hospital-grade technology into regular cleaning and disinfecting protocols will provide an added layer of protection for students and teachers, without the use of chemicals, which is critical.”

The new normal

“COVID-19 has thrust infection prevention and control into the spotlight,” Tara Millson, DNP, RN, CIC, FAPIC, an infection prevention consultant with the CDC’s division of healthcare quality promotion surveillance branch, said at the American Nephrology Nurses Association National Symposium.7 Many industry experts anticipate this will be a permanent shift as UV-C has been proven to increase office health and productivity, and help control influenza, which kills about 61,000 people a year.

This demand for stronger disinfection capabilities is why we created a hospital-grade product that not only destroys pathogens but stops them from multiplying. Meet Arc: the most powerful, human-centric UV-C system on the market. Arc makes the same disinfection technology that’s been the gold standard in hospitals for decades accessible to organizations of all shapes and sizes. 

Arc destroys surface and airborne pathogens in minutes with true hospital-grade efficacy. Now schools, hotels, restaurants, athletic facilities, manufacturing environments, office spaces and more can create clinically clean environments and protect what matters most.

Arc’s potent, proven UV-C light kills over 99.99% of pathogens without harmful chemicals – so it’s safe to use around food, electronics, plants and furniture too. It’s deadly for pathogens, but friendly for our planet.

At R-Zero, we’re committed to bringing hospital-grade disinfection technologies to organizations and sharing information to help evolve your infection prevention strategies. If you or someone in your community is seeking the leading information on infection prevention for businesses, schools, or facilities, or may benefit from learning about R-Zero products, please contact sales@rzerosystems.com  

In our next article, we’ll be covering the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Make sure to subscribe to our blog to get all of the latest biosafety insights and actionable best practices.

Sources:

1.https://www.dukehealth.org/blog/uv-light-helps-duke-hospitals-fight-transmission-of-superbugs
2. https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/far-uvc-light-safely-kills-airborne-coronaviruses
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet#UVC
4. Carling, P.C., Parry, M.F., & Von Beheren, S.M. (2008). Identifying opportunities to enhance environmental cleaning in 23 acute care hospitals. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 29(1), 1-7.
5. Xie, A., Rock, C., Hsu, Y.J., Osei, P., Andonian, J., Scheeler, V., Keller, S.C… Gurses, A.P. (2018). Improving daily patient room cleaning: an observational study using a human factors and systems engineering approach. IISE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors, 11, 1–4.
6. Zeber, J. E., Coppin, J. D., Villamaria, F. C., Williams, M. D., Copeland, L. A., Chatterjee, P., Choi, H., & Jinadatha, C. (2019). Use of ultraviolet irradiation in addition to commonly used hospital disinfectants or cleaners further reduces the bioburden on high-touch surfaces. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 6(12).
7. Xie, A., Rock, C., Hsu, Y.J., Osei, P., Andonian, J., Scheeler, V., Keller, S.C… Gurses, A.P. (2018). Improving daily patient room cleaning: an observational study using a human factors and systems engineering approach. IISE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors, 11, 1–4.

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