CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Drug resistant bacteria found in hospital rooms and medical facilities have become a huge concern for patients across the nation.
In fact, one out of every 20 patients in the hospital end up getting an infection from the facility they are being treated in according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here in North Carolina, the medical community is working to find a better way to kill these germs and they're doing it with a high-tech robot!
It's called TRU-D or "Trudy" and its target is bacteria.
Kint Greenhouse, Director of Environmental Services at Durham Regional Hospital said, "Human touch only cleans 50 percent of the room."
Durham Regional Hospital is one of nine hospitals participating in a 28 month study, led by Duke doctors and sponsored by the CDC, to see if TRU-D’s UV light technology can kill the "big four" drug resistant germs that lurk in hospital rooms.
Those germs include Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (aka. MRSA), Clostridium difficile (aka. C.diff), Acinetobacter baumannii, and Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (aka. VRE). They are targeted for this study because of their ability to live in a hospital environment. If contracted they can be very difficult to treat and in some cases deadly.
"Those four can live several hours if not up to half a day or more and therefore can be in the environment long enough to potentially expose a subsequent patient," said Dr. Deverick Anderson, Associate Professor of Medicine and an Infectious Disease Physician with Duke Medicine.
Dr. Anderson says because the problem is so widespread now, finding a way to get rid of these germs is a top priority.
"We don't mean to frighten anybody by saying, you know, your room is unclean. It's just we're trying to learn more about it."
So we traveled to Durham to see this new technology in action.
"The UV actually literally gets down into the DNA of the bacteria and disrupts it to the point where it just literally kills the bacteria. We've actually been able to confirm that finding here just this month," said Dr. Anderson.
First the hospital room is cleaned by hand and then set up so TRU-D’s UV light technology can reach germs in places that may have been missed.
"The light that goes in there bounces all around and so...if it can get in inside the drawer then it'll bounce around inside there and kill whatever germs may be present in there," said Dr. Anderson.
You can't be in the room while TRU-D is at work so a remote control is used outside the door.
"It will stay on essentially until all eight of the sensors that are on top of it have received enough reflective UV light to get up to what we're calling an effective dose for the germs that are likely to be in the room," said Dr. Anderson.
The staff at Durham Regional says they are excited about the possibilities.
"It gives us assurance that the room is sterile," said Vicki Tutor, a Registered Nurse and Infection Preventionist at Durham Regional Hospital.
Researchers at Duke are about half way through their study and if the results are as promising as they hope, TRU-D could be cleaning hospitals across the country pretty soon.
Dr. Anderson says if you are concerned about the sanitation of your hospital room, you should by all means ask!
Ask the doctors and nurses that come in the room if they have cleaned their hands, ask how much time was spent cleaning your room, and ask about their cleaning process and how it's tracked.
He says they should be more than happy to share that information with you.