Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) are amongst the top five causes of death. More deaths than road accidents, breast cancer, AIDS and armed conflicts occur due to HAIs, says Dilip Patil, Managing Partner, Trivector Biomed LLP, in an interview with Elets News Network (ENN).
From In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and sperm banks, what led you to diversify into Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) control?
After working in the field of infertility management for more than two decades, my wife Sangeeta and I wanted to explore something which was more challenging and had potential to touch more lives. Observing a few of our acquaintances and family members succumbing to healthcare associated infections, we realised that this problem is much bigger and decided to focus on Airborne Infection Control.
What is an airborne infection?
Infectious viruses, bacteria, fungi, molds, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are all around us in the air in the form of droplet nuclei. Most of them stay in the air for a longer duration and tend to settle on the surfaces and create contact points. Most of these airborne microbes are so small that they cannot be filtered. They need to be killed. There are seasonal outbreaks of viral or bacterial infections like Swine Flu, MERS and other respiratory illnesses. Tuberculosis (TB) is the biggest airborne killer along with other respiratory illnesses.
How big is the problem of airborne infection?
Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) are amongst the top five causes of death. More deaths than road accidents, breast cancer, AIDS and armed conflicts occur due to HAIs. In developed countries like America, about 100,000 people die every year due to HAIs which costs additional healthcare burden of about $40 billion annually (source: CDC, America). Most bacteria have developed resistance to commonly used antibiotics leading to higher doses and more expenses. This is the case more or less in all developed countries. In Asian and African countries, the problem is more severe and thousands are getting affected and being killed silently.
Immune-compromised patients like those in isolation rooms, pulmonology wards, ICCUs, dialysis units, neonatal and paediatric ICUs, burns units, organ transplants, asthma patients and homecare patients are more vulnerable to airborne pathogens.
How can airborne infection be controlled?
Atmospheric cold plasma, also known as the fourth state of matter, is most effective and safe sterilising agent being used for healthcare appliances. If the same plasma technology was to be applied to the air, the problem of airborne infection could be minimised.
Novaerus, an Irish company, has developed the cold plasma air sterilisation technology which destroys the DNA of the viruses and bacteria in the air and converts them into neutral constituents of natural air. It is the latest breakthrough which is validated by NASA research lab in California. This technology is being tried and tested in various healthcare establishments with great results.
This compact and absolutely maintenance free system requires no maintenance or consumables and consumes electricity equivalent to a laptop charger. There is no need to shift the patient or staff; no time-consuming pre and post procedure rituals to be followed, just plug and play and the continuous protection stars from the next moment. It effectively eradicates up to 99.9 per cent viruses, bacteria, fungi, molds and eliminates odours and VOCs improving quality of life for patients and healthcare staff and saves precious lives.
How is the Novaerus solution different from other currently available solutions?
All available solutions (HEPA Filters, Ionisers, UV Lights, Ozone, Hydrogen Peroxide, Vapour Generators, Fumigators etc , including existing sterility protocol) are decades old to trap or kill viruses. They have inherent limitations and are mostly combination of multiple sub-optimal technologies, making it cumbersome and expensive to maintain. We have reached the point of diminishing returns with no new technology available in decades.
Plasma is known to be the most effective sterilising agent for medical devices and Novaerus has uniquely used cold atmospheric plasma for sterilisation of air with patented Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD Plasma) technology. Everything happens inside the box and only cleanest air comes out of the device, which is safe for human consumption.
Where was the Novaerus solution designed, used and tested?
Novaerus Plasma Air Sterilisation System was designed in the UK and manufactured in Ireland. It is being used by numerous healthcare facilities in Europe and America with great benefits to the patients and healthcare staff. NASA laboratory has validated effectiveness of this technology by publishing a white paper on it. Various independent clinics and laboratories, including in India have conducted clinical trials and studies using Novaerus technology and the papers are available online. We have conducted pilot studies on MTB and Acinitobacter, and this technology has been proven to effectively kill all bacteria and viruses including TB bacteria in the air. Novaerus products are CE, UL marked and are manufactured under ISO certified factories.
How do you measure or monitor the effectiveness of Novaerus technology?
There is no visible indicator of reduction in viruses and bacteria except for taking air-samples and culturing it before and after installation of Novaerus units. The reduced CFUs (Colony Forming Units) is the good measure. However, the effective reduction in odour or measurement of level of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), particles in the air is another way to measure the air quality. Novaerus has developed a smart air quality cloud-based platform with sensors, GSM router, etc, which allows the users not just to monitor the air quality remotely, but it also communicates with Novaerus unit to act more efficiently based on the level of impurities in the air.
Has Novaerus solution been implemented in India?
Novaerus technology has been brought to India through Trivector Biomed LLP and demonstrated and clinical trial conducted at different healthcare establishments across India with overwhelming results. Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai was the first hospital in India which installed three units in their IVF department in 2015.
What is the size and how much area does Novaerus sterilise?
Novaerus units come in three compact sizes. NV200 which is effective for an area up to 200 sq ft (with 10 ft ceiling height) is of the size of the shoebox or a portable speaker, while NV-800 is surface or wall mounting type, size of a 21 inch LCD monitor which is effective up to area of 500 sq ft. NV-1000 is a portable floor unit which is designed to clean the air in quickest time and covers up to 2,000 sq ft area.
What are your future plans to establish and implement this wonderful technology to control airborne infections?
In tune with the Swachh Bharat Mission, our goal is to reach all healthcare establishments where there could be a problem of HAIs. We have a dream of offering this technology to municipal, governmental and rural hospitals where it is needed the most. We are open to work with health missions, NGOs and appoint channel partners specialising in different areas. We are also enhancing our sales and marketing team across India. Our vision is to see infection-free hospitals by installing Novaerus technology where it matters the most.