Humans and Germ Theory: An Early History
Human beings have always coexisted with microorganisms. However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that we could see them and prove they were real.
In the 1660s, a Dutch cloth merchant named Anton van Leeuwenhoek ground up glass to create magnifying lenses so he could more closely inspect the fabrics he worked with. Van Leeuwenhoek then used his new magnifying glass to examine water from a nearby pond. Much to his surprise, he found that the sample was chock-full of tiny life forms. He contacted the Royal Society in London, one of the first organizations dedicated to scientific discovery and investigation, and sent them a detailed report along with many drawings.
Unfortunately, scientists saw this discovery as little more than a curiosity for the next 200 years. In the 1840s, a doctor by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis introduced the first germ theory. Dr. Semmelweis worked in a maternity hospital. He noticed that the ward where midwives oversaw labor and delivery had a much lower mother and infant mortality rate than the ward supervised by doctors. Dr. Semmelweis observed that the midwives washed their hands and changed their clothes after attending each birth. The doctors, however, would see patients without washing their hands or changing their clothes.
Modern Advances in Germ Theory
Dr. Semmelweis was viewed as crazy for claiming midwives with their precautions were better care providers than physicians. He was even committed to a mental hospital. He never lived to see broad acceptance of his theory that invisible particles could carry infectious disease from person to person.
In the 1870s, germ theory took a giant step forward. Louis Pasteur was the first to demonstrate through his experiments that microorganisms in the environment could cause contamination and illness. This finding contradicted the dominant theory at the time, miasma theory. By exposing freshly boiled broth to the air under different circumstances, Pasteur proved that the growth of bacteria in the broth was a result of invisible particles in the air.
In the late 19th century, Robert Koch developed his “postulates”, which have become basic principles for bacteriology. Postulates help prove that specific microorganisms cause specific diseases, which can reproduce and spread from animal to animal. The work of Koch and Pasteur, along with other scientists, revolutionized thinking about sterilization and disinfection. Their findings have served as the foundation of disease prevention in the ensuing 150 years.
The Need for Air & Surface Disinfection
If 2020 taught the world anything, it taught us that we are as susceptible to viruses and bacteria today as we have always been. With all the technological advancements and benefits we enjoy, these nearly invisible organisms still wield terrible power over us. “Disinfection” and “sterilization” have become our watchwords as we struggle to find ways to ensure the safety and health of our indoor environments.
The COVID-19 virus demanded swift and effective action that would help protect people in shared spaces such as offices, hospitals, schools, or care facilities. Implementing new methods for maintaining our common environments can eliminate further risks to employees, residents, and visitors in these locations. Surfaces of every kind have required cleaning and sanitizing at regular intervals. Air filtration systems have needed modernizing to keep the air breathable and free of contaminants.
The cleaning and disinfection method that has been most readily available is manual cleaning and disinfection using chemicals. Consequently, manual cleaning with bleach and other disinfectants initially emerged as the most common response during the burgeoning COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, when it became clear that COVID-19 was also an airborne pathogen, manual cleaning was no longer the best option. Instead, many facilities looked to air purification systems with ventilation filters to trap pathogen particles and irradiate them. These systems require modifications to existing air filtration systems that can be costly and inconvenient. They also cannot be implemented as quickly as manual cleaning protocols.
Pitfalls of Traditional Disinfection Methods
Schools, businesses, hospitals, senior care centers, and other industries are all searching for the most effective way to fight COVID and other microbial menaces.
Many facilities have implemented a chemical-based regimen to battle the spread of illness in their buildings and protect employees and residents. Others have modified existing ventilation systems to incorporate advanced filter technology. Still others have used a layered approach that combines PPE and disinfection protocols to improve the quality of the indoor environment.
Now that we are nearly two years into the COVID pandemic, we have cause to question the safety and efficacy of chemical-based solutions. Many chemicals used for disinfection leave behind a residue that can cause reactions on human skin or in respiratory systems. Additionally, these chemicals require specific handling and storage protocols that necessitate additional time, space, and expense to execute correctly. For some businesses, these measures are not practical and create more problems than they solve. Research also indicates that manual cleaning with disinfectants can miss up to 50% of the bacteria and viruses present on surfaces. Even when chemical cleaners are applied to surfaces, germs are often trapped in the film but not killed or can remain in areas not thoroughly cleaned by staff.
As science gains a greater understanding of how illness and disease spread through the air, indoor air quality is becoming increasingly important. With airborne pathogens, we are at risk simply because we are breathing, so air quality deserves closer attention. Air filtration improvements can include filter replacement, HVAC upgrades, bipolar ionization techniques, and in-duct irradiation. Each of these methods can improve indoor air quality, but the associated expenses can be cost-prohibitive. In addition, a virus such as COVID-19 may be small enough to pass through a filter system, resulting in a false sense of security.
Disinfection through UV-C Light
UV-C light is perhaps the safest, most thorough, and most cost-effective disinfection technology available to businesses, education, healthcare, and long-term care facilities. UV-C light has proven itself as a disinfection tool since the late 1800s. UV-C light is a common disinfection method for water treatment, food processing, and surface preparation. Because UV-C light is unable to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere, organisms such as COVID, influenza, and other microorganisms have no natural immunity to this form of light. UV-C light kills microorganisms by destroying the nucleic acids in their cells. This destruction, in turn, inactivates the organism and removes the risk it poses.
For more than a century, scientists have known about the germ-killing properties of UV-C light. In 1903, Danish doctor Niels Finsen first discovered UV light’s ability to treat a type of tuberculosis known as lupus vulgaris. In the ensuing years, scientists have demonstrated UV-C’s ability to destroy or inactivate bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, E. coli, and influenza.
Within the UV-C light spectrum, far UV-C light has exceptional qualities. At 222 nm, its wavelength is so short that it can’t penetrate human skin or eyes. This safety for human exposure makes it an excellent tool for killing airborne and surface-borne pathogens without causing a risk to humans. In fact, far UV-C products can safely be used continuously in areas occupied by people.
Far UV Air & Surface Disinfection with Vive
While there are a number of far UV systems that exist to help decontaminate air and surfaces, R-Zero offers the only independently validated product on the market. R-Zero’s far UV product, Vive, has been proven to eliminate 99.9% of human coronavirus, E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Aspergillus niger, and Deinococcus radiodurans in a matter of minutes or even seconds. Vive protects against all three vectors of disease transmission: airborne, surface, and human-to-human. Vive provides continuous, autonomous protection without the risks posed by chemicals or the uncertainties highlighted by HVAC upgrades. Furthermore, Vive’s unique filtered far UV light further ensures safety. To ensure Vive is operating at peak performance, R-Zero also provides software, support, and analytics to ensure continuous air and surface disinfection.
Far UV: Autonomous, Continuous Disinfection for the Future
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the indoor spaces we use on a daily basis have forever become suspect. The inherent risks of shared spaces have shaken our faith in the safety of the facilities we visit. While manual cleaning and disinfection are still important considerations for the health and wellbeing of occupants, successful facilities will need to step up their game by providing a higher-level system for disinfection in shared indoor spaces.
Vive renders spaces clinically clean through the power of far UV light. Unlike the costly HVAC upgrades and chemical-based methods also available, Vive provides a safer, more sustainable, and more cost-effective solution. With its far UV light, Vive is a renewable, non-hazardous option that doesn’t require costly upgrades or maintenance. Vive also easily integrates with existing facilities management systems while providing hospital-grade, far UV disinfection safe for human exposure.
Learn more about Vive by visiting our product page or contact us today to see how we can begin improving your indoor environmental quality with Vive’s continuous, autonomous far UV.
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