Hospitals are using germ-zapping robots to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
As the Ebola crisis continues to escalate, biotech scientists are rushing to develop more experimental drugs—such as ZMapp. However, making even a small quantity of doses could take a few months. For now, enhanced screenings at airports have been implemented to help slow Ebola’s spread.
At U.S. hospitals, they are implementing CDC-mandated infection control procedures to fight Ebola. These include isolation protocols, handwashing, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), single-use supply policy, and the disinfection of hard surfaces and rooms with EPA-grade chemicals that can eliminate deadly germs.
In addition, these hospitals are now using robots to help kill spores, bacteria, and viruses like Ebola.
Meet ‘Little Moe’
Little Moe is the nickname of the germ-zapping robot made by San Antonio, Texas based Xenex. The robot uses ultraviolet light to kill germs in a room in just five minutes.
The current version does not move by itself, but is placed by a hospital worker in an empty room that is to be disinfected. When “armed” the robot initiates a 15-second timer for people to exit the room before a column of xenon bulbs that emit UV light raises from its top.
The bulbs pulse intermittently, disinfecting the whole room in five minutes. According to Xenex, the disinfecting power of the robot covers the full germicidal UV range and has been proven to effectively kill Clostridium difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and 22 other pathogens.
The UV-C light, a type of UV that germs do not have natural defenses against, penetrates and damages the DNA of the disease-causing culprits.
The CDC has already released “Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients with Known or Suspected Ebola Virus Disease in U.S. Hospitals,” including standard, contact, and droplet precautions.
Robotic technology like Little Moe can supplement these Ebola-specific guidelines, as well as other existing cleaning and disinfecting measures used by facilities.
Outside of clinical settings, the CDC recommends frequent handwashing, and avoiding contact with body fluids of persons with suspected symptoms, and seeking immediate medical care if related symptoms occur.
Robots Can Help
Transmission between health workers and Ebola patients is obviously hazardous. Technology is not a substitute for established precautions against pathogens—but applications such as robotics can help healthcare workers break the chain of transmission.
Robots are already helping clinicians perform surgeries, haul hospital supplies, sort medications and connect to patients via telemedicine. With digital health technology like Little Moe, these robots are now also helping to stop Ebola.