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Hospital-bred Superbugs Face New Technology Determined To Render Them Extinct

Apr 29, 2013 01:01 PM EDT

With 1 in 20 patients picking up infections at hospitals, the fight against “superbugs” is an ever-evolving one for doctors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospital infections are tied to an estimated 100,000 deaths each year, costing patients and tax-payers as much as $30 billion annually.

In March, the agency sounded the alarm for what it’s calling “nightmare bacteria” due to their resistance antibiotics. Known as Carbanpenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, these germs kill half the people whose bloodstreams they infect and are easily transferable.

Such realities have, in turn, given rise to a new age of germ-zapping robots resembling something out of “Star Wars,” as well as antimicrobial linens, curtains, copper bed rails, call buttons, IV poles and even wall paint, according to the AP.

Among the latest inventions is a portable, $125,000 machine from the company Xenex Healthcare Services that uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses.

According to its makers, the machine is 20 times more effective than manual cleaning with chemicals with an 82 percent diecrease in infection reates.

As Dr. Maris Montecalvo, a contagious disease specialist at Westchester Medical Center, told the AP, there’s been an increased focus on ensuring “that all the nooks and crannies are clean, and that it’s done in as perfect a manner as can be done.”

Meanwhile, Medicare has moved to stop paying bills for certain infections caught while patients are staying at a hospital.

“We’re seeing a culture change,” Jennie Mayfield, who tracks infections at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, told the news agency.

Among the most common and deadly of today’s healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), is the germ C. difficile, or C-diff, which is linked to diarrhea that kills an estimated 14,000 Americans every year. Those most at risk, according to the CDC, are older adults who take antibiotics as well as medical care.

However, with the new challenges come accompanying opportunities: in all, according to the marketing firm Frost & Sullivan, the market for fighting HAIs is expected to grow from $30 million to $80 million in the next three years.

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