Cooley Dickinson Study Claims UV Light Kills Bacteria

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts says its rate of one type of hospital-acquired infection was cut in half after using a new UV-light technology. These results were recently published in the American Journal of Infection Control. 

Bacterial infections acquired during a hospital stay pose serious public health problems, and Clostridium Difficile — or C-Diff — remains one of the most worrisome. The bacteria can lead to diarrhea, inflammation, even death. Cooley Dickinson’s infection control director, Dr. Joanne Levin, says in recent years, the hospital has reduced the rates of other hospital-acquired infections through stricter hygiene, but C-Diff rates were not improving. So in 2011, Cooley Dickinson introduced a new UV light technology — in which a machine emits bacteria-killing light across all surfaces in a room after one patient is discharged and before the next arrives. Levin says that before they got the UV machine, about 30 people a year were thought to get C-diff from the hospital. After a year of UV light use, that number fell to about 15, and Levin says it’s unlikely the drop was due to factors other than UV technology.

“This drop was very sudden, and it happened the year we (first) used the UV light,” Levin said, “and we as a hospital did not change anything else in our infection control behavior.”

Levin says using UV light for infection control has a few glitches  — for instance, in a shared room, it’s not safe to emit UV rays after one patient is discharged if the other patient remains. Levin says while Cooley Dickinson’s study was small, she hopes the results will encourage other institutions to add UV technology to existing infection control measures.  No other hospitals in Western Massachusetts use UV technology for infection control, though a spokesperson at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield says that hospital is looking at the method’s effectiveness — as a supplement to existing infection control measures.. Leasing two UV machines costs about $60,000 a year.