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Study Reports Narrow Spectrum UV Could Lower Risk of Infection In Hospitals

Update Date: Oct 17, 2013 10:49 AM EDT

Even though the hospital is often perceived as a very sterile and clean place, patients, particularly surgical patients, are at risk of getting infections that could complicate their health conditions. According to the statistics, around 200,000 to 300,000 patients with surgical wounds will develop infections. These infections cost around three to 10 billion dollars in health care cost every single year. Due to the health risks and medical costs involved, finding ways to reduce infection rate within hospitals is very important. In a new study, researchers are reporting that using narrow spectrum ultraviolet light to kill bacteria could be effective.

UV light is currently used to kill the bacteria on surgical instruments. Standard procedure involves using anywhere from 200 nanometers (nm) to 400 nm of UV light on surgical tools. Even though this is an effective way to kill residual bacteria, these wavelengths are too strong for humans and would harm human DNA. Due to this issue, the researchers from Columbia University Medical Center looked into a narrow spectrum of UV light.

The researchers found that using UV light at 207 nm was effective in killing bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). The wavelength also did not do any damage to the human skin. The researchers had used cell cultures that resembled human skin. They exposed the cultures to UV light at 207 nm and found that this level of UV exposure did not harm the cells in the skin and the eyes. These regions of the body tend to be the most vulnerable to UV damage. The researches concluded that 207 nm was able to destroy MRSA with a 1,000 times reduced rate of harming skin cells.

The researchers acknowledged the fact that more tests will need to be conducted before hospitals start to use this narrow spectrum UV light on patients. The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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