Skip to Content

View Additional Section Content

Published on October 06, 2014

MU Health Care Using Robots That Kill Germs, Including Ebola

COLUMBIA, Mo. — In the battle all hospitals fight to eliminate infections, University of Missouri Health Care is using a new technology — robots that emit ultraviolet light to kill germs. The Ebola virus is among those pathogens the robots can kill.

The machine emits a UV light by flashing xenon, an inert gas. The UV light penetrates the cell walls of microorganisms, killing them on surfaces and in the air. In addition to killing the Ebola virus, the UV robots can eradicate more than 20 other microorganisms, including those that cause enterovirus, influenza, rhinoviruses, RSV, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), pseudomonas and Clostridium difficile (C-diff). C-diff is one of the most difficult germs to destroy. The bacteria cause an infection in the intestine and can be very serious and even fatal.

“The UV light robots are used in conjunction with traditional thorough and continual cleaning of our hospitals,” said Kristin Hahn-Cover, M.D., chief quality officer for the University of Missouri Health System. “They are used to do a final disinfection in areas with probable high contamination, preventing the spread of germs that could infect the next person to be in that room. They are an additional way we can protect the patient and visitors from infection.”

Last year, MU Health Care reported only four cases of C-diff, which is well below the national average of 10 cases annually, according to the federal government’s Hospital Compare website.

“C-diff is difficult to kill because it makes spores that are hard-shelled forms of the bacteria,” said Linda Johnson, RN, infection control manager at MU Health Care. “Those bacteria can live for long periods of time on surfaces. UV technology has been shown to be the most effective in killing C-diff spores.”

“We know C-diff bacteria can be very resistant to normal cleaning practices,” Hahn-Cover said. “That was one reason we decided to add this layer of protection for our patients — because the UV light emitted by the robots kills all forms of the C-diff bacteria.”

Each robot costs $85,000. The machine takes about 15 minutes per disinfection cycle, depending on the size of the room. The robots are very mobile and can be used in any area. They are used most often in operating rooms, cardiac catheterization labs, procedure rooms where someone may have dialysis or a procedure involving the intestines or lungs, and patient rooms.

Three disinfecting robots are located at MU Health Care: University Hospital, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute.

News