By Keri Forsythe-Stephens

Rarely do I share anything personal in my editorials (something, I’m sure, loyal readers very much appreciate.) But the subject of February’s cover story—infection control and sterilization—really hits close to home.

In November 2000, my grandmother died from a hospital-associated infection (HAI). On Thanksgiving Day, my relatively young and vivacious grandmother was admitted to the hospital for an acute case of pneumonia; one week later, she was gone. The doctors all but admitted she picked up another bug in the hospital and didn’t have the capacity to fight it.

Keri Forsythe-Stephens, Chief Editor

Keri Forsythe-Stephens, Chief Editor

Sadly, my grandmother’s story is all too common. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics indicate that HAIs affect 5%-10% of hospitalized patients in the U.S. each year—a quantity that leads to approximately 99,000 deaths and $20 billion in medical costs.

That’s not to say that progress hasn’t been made, however. Positive steps include a 50% reduction in central line-associated bloodstream infections from 2008 and 2014 and a 13% drop in hospital-onset methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections from 2011 to 2014.

The National Institutes of Health’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also recently awarded researchers in Michigan a $2 million grant to study the usage of germ-zapping robots to combat HAIs. The groundbreaking study—the first of its kind to investigate no-touch room disinfection—is looking at using high-intensity ultraviolet (UV) light delivered by Xenex robots to remove bugs from hospital surfaces.

Joseph Authement, Xenex’s senior vice president of global sales, says this novel approach could have strong implications for patient care—and safety.

“The robot is very efficient,” he says, “and its speed enables it to disinfect areas and rooms quickly so they can be used throughout the entire facility, including multi-bed wards, to help reduce the risk of infection throughout the hospital.”

Two hospitals covering 16 units at the Detroit Medical Center will be studied over a period of 2 years. At the end of the designated period, researchers will report on rates of HAIs, including MRSA and C.diff, in units where pulsed-xenon UV light was added to cleaning routines compared to units where a sham UV disinfection system was added to standard cleaning.

Personally, I’m very interested in the results of this study. After all, anything that can reduce the incidence of HAIs—and, in turn, save lives—is progress indeed. So what are some steps your workplace has taken to reduce HAIs? Let me know at [email protected].