Microbes Related to Infant Lung Infections Reduced by Two-Thirds Using Specialized Ventilation System Device in ICU

By Lois Baker

Release Date: May 3, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pediatric researchers at Women and Children's Hospital here have shown that the incidence of disease-producing microorganisms in the lungs of its infants on life support can be reduced markedly by installing an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation device in the ventilation system of its neonatal intensive care unit.

The device, called Vigilance', a computer-driven assembly of ultraviolet lights combined with other technologies, was developed by FP Technologies, Inc., in Buffalo.

Results of the study, conducted by University at Buffalo neonatologists in collaboration with company scientists, were presented today (May 3) at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting being held May 3-5 in Seattle.

"This device significantly reduced microbial contamination in our neonatal intensive care unit, and spared our tiny patients from exposure to many infection-causing organisms," said Rita Ryan, M.D., UB associate professor of pediatrics and lead author on the study.

"It appears than ultraviolet germicidal irradiation may decrease the mortality and morbidity associated with hospital-acquired infections. This device should greatly improve the outcome of our premature infants by decreasing their risk of acquiring chronic lung disease and shortening their hospital stay."

Infections that patients contract while they are in the hospital are a major public-health concern. They cause unnecessary patient suffering and keep patients in the hospital longer, increasing health-care costs by an estimated $4.5 billion. To decrease the presence of microbes responsible for these infections, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that hospitals install ultraviolet germicidal irradiation devices, such as the one used in this study, in their heating, ventilation and cooling systems.

The UB pediatricians undertook a study to determine if installing the device in the area's major neonatal intensive care unit would results in fewer infections in their tiny patients. To arrive at their answer, the physicians cultured the residue from tubes installed in the tracheas of infants to help them breathe, before and after installation of the device.

Cultures also were taken from the heating, ventilation and cooling system and the neonatal intensive-care environment.

Results showed that, before the installation, the same microbes found in the ventilation system were present in cultures from the intubated infants.

After installation, these tracheal microbes in the babies' systems fell from an average concentration of 600 bacterial-colony-forming units to less than 200 units by two months, Ryan said. "This is a real boon for our patients," she said.

Additional authors on the study were Corrinne L. Leach, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics; Bruce A. Holm, Ph.D., senior vice provost and professor of pediatrics and gynecology and obstetrics, and Gregory E. Wilding, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics, all from the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Contributors from FP Technologies, Inc., were Timothy J. Leach, Fred Elder, Ph.D., Patrick M. Leach and Thomas K. Leach.

The study was funded in part by an award from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) and by FP Technologies, Inc.