Weapon Developed to Zap Once-Invincible Superbugs

The machine, affectionately called R2-D2, uses high-intensity ultraviolet light to kill potentially deadly germs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Antibiotic resistant superbugs are on the rise in hospitals. A new "superbug zapper" is being used at UCLA Medical Center. The high-tech tool works by bathing hospital rooms with pulses of high-intensity UV light, which kills virtually all of the bacteria doctors are most concerned about. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 20, 2013. (Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013)

    So-called super bacteria that resist almost all treatment are on the rise to epidemic levels; in some cases, killing half of the people they infect.

    But breakthrough technology being used at UCLA is a major step toward defeating these once-invincible germs.

    These superbugs make spores that can go airborne and they are also easily transmitted from person to person through surface contamination. More people are killed by these deadly germs each year than those killed by cancer, AIDS or car crashes combined.

    UCLA is one of the leading medical centers trying to change that with a superbug zapper called Zenex.

    When a patient who contracted a superbug is discharged or transferred, the Enviromental Services Department removes all disposable items, replaces all non-disposables and wipes down everything with chlorine.

    Once the cleaning is done, they wheel in the Zenex, pictured at left. A button is pushed and everyone leaves; the doors are closed and the machine gets to work.

    A cylinder rises, warning beeps pulse and the entire room is bathed in pulsing waves of high-intensity ultraviolet light, a powerful disinfectant, studies show.

    While experts agree the machine is a major step forward, much more work needs to be done to protect patients’ lives.

    And more studies must be conducted to see just how much of a difference this new machine makes.

    You can protect yourself and your loved ones by following these three steps:

    • Never insist on strong antibiotics;
    • Make sure everyone who visits you in the hospital washes their hands before and after seeing you; and
    • Know the symptoms of superbugs, which include fever, weakness, abdominal pain and/or severe unrelenting diarrhea.

    More information:

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