Hospital Associated 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. COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the situation still further, says Dilip Patil, C0-Founder, Director, Trivector Group & BabyQuest Cryobank, in an interview with Kartik Sharma of Elets News Network (ENN).
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Q Please tell us more about services and product Trivector Biomed offers at present?
Besides offering niche products for human IVF like microfludic chips for sperm selection, vitrification, culture media, Trivector group also deals with Veterinary IVF products, provides IVF-ET training, operates BabyQuest Cryobank (Sperm Bank). We also have vertical for Infection control in which we provide innovative solution for air disinfection (Novaerus), disinfection of surfaces and medical equipment (HypoClean, EmbryoSafe, EmbryoShield).
Q Why did you decide to enter in to the field of Infection 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.
Q 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 Flu, SARS, measles, and other respiratory illnesses like now COVID-19 pandemic. Tuberculosis (TB) is the biggest airborne killer along with other respiratory illnesses.
Q 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 developing countries, the problem is more severe and thousands are getting affected and being killed silently.
The problem is even bigger, e.g. the childhood death rate form HAIs equate to ‘a plane crashing every hour’ in developing countries!
Q 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.
Model Protect-200 and Protect-800, are compact and require minimal maintenance (except for Defend 1050 which has triple stage filtration besides Plasma). These units consume very low electricity. 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 starts from the next moment. It effectively eradicates up to 99.99 per cent viruses, bacteria, fungi, molds and eliminates odours and VOCs improving quality of life for patients and healthcare staff and saves precious lives.
Q 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 sterilisation 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 Ultra – Low Energy 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.
Q Where was Novaerus solution tested and validated? Has it been tested for COVID-19?
Novaerus Air Disinfection unit was recently tested on SARS-COV-2 (COVID) surrogate virus in Aerosol Research Engineering lab in the USA. The lab tests concluded that Novaerus Defend 1050 unit eliminated this virus in 30 cubic meter room up to 99.99% within 15 minutes. Similar studies have been performed on other viruses and bacteria including Tuberculosis proving similar efficacy.
It is being used by numerous healthcare facilities in Europe, America and China, etc. 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.
Q 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. Novaerus solution is being used in several IVF labs in India to improve air-quality and results.
Q Has Novaerus cold Plasma Air Disinfection systems installed for controlling COVID-19 yet?
Novaerus Systems have been approved by healthcare departments of various governments including China for disinfecting the hospital air. Many units are currently being used in hospitals in Wuhan and elsewhere. In India too, we have installed these units to protect COVID Warriors in different public hospitals, including Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (New Delhi), St. Georges Hospital (Mumbai) and in COVID-19 sample testing clinics of several Municipal hospitals of Mumbai (including Kasturba Hospital). We have also installed a few units in Pune during this Pandemic. Some of these units (amounting to about Rs. 2 Million) are given free of cost, as part of our social responsibility to protect front-line healthcare workers.
Q What are the specific areas where your solution could be implemented on priority?
During and after COVID pandemic, Novaerus air-disinfection system can be used for the spaces and situations where risk of transmitting infection through air is high. E.g.: Operation Theatres, General Wards, TB wards, X-ray rooms, Invasive diagnostic labs (bronchoscopy, endoscopy, laparoscopy etc), Isolation Rooms (both positive and negative pressure) ICUs, IVF labs and Critical Care Units, Neonatal, Childcare and Schools, Emergency Rooms, Dental Clinics, Senior living homes, Home Care, Corporate offices, ambulances and mobile COVID-19 sample testing vehicles, etc.
Q What are the hurdles you envisage for making your infection control solutions popular and widely accepted?
It is observed that there is not enough awareness or acceptance of air-borne infections and there is huge reluctance to adopt the new technology solutions. The guidelines being followed are based on old and dated solutions. Also disinfection devices attract higher import taxes and GST making them more expensive. If government and private hospitals treat this as life-saving solution and encourage make in India, trial and adapt new technologies and solutions with open approach, we can play a big role in various health missions including End-TB-2025 and controlling pandemic like COVID-19.