Science and Technology News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

USAF Langley Hospital adds 'Ebola-zapping' robot to inventory

by Staff Sgt. Antoinette Gibson
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


10/23/2014 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Standing at 5 feet 2 inches tall, USAF Hospital Langley's newest staff member doesn't initially have a commanding presence. However, after five minutes, its impact has the potential to save countless lives around the world.

The 633rd Medical Group received a germ-zapping robot, nicknamed Saul, which harnesses the power of technology to kill off viruses - including the Ebola Virus Disease. Through a demonstration, Geri Genant, Xenex Healthcare Services implementation manager, shared with Airman the robots functions and capabilities.

Shortly after the president issued an executive order addressing the critical issue of Ebola, the 633rd MDG responded with cutting edge technology to protect the health of the Service members, their families and the community.

The hospital staff partnered up with Xenex, the company that created Saul as part of a response plan designated to ensure the 633rd MDG is equipped to handle viruses like Ebola.

"We are very proud to be the first Air Force hospital to have this robot," said U.S. Air Force Col. Marlene Kerchenski, 633rd Medical Group Surgeon General chief of nursing services. "Saul will provide an extra measure of safety for both our patients and our intensive care unit staff."

According to Genant, after patient and operation rooms are cleaned, the robot uses pulses of high-intensity, high-energy ultraviolet rays 25,000 times brighter than florescent lights to split open bacterial cell walls and kill dangerous pathogens commonly found in hospitals.

Although each room is cleaned by hospital staff wearing proper protection equipment and using cleaning chemicals, harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi still linger in some areas, especially those human hands can't reach. As an additional patient safety measure, the Xenex robot can then disinfect a room in five minutes and destroy Ebola-like viruses on any surface in two minutes, according to Dr. Mark Stibich, Xenex's founder and Chief Scientific Officer, as reported by CBS Houston.

"Xenex has tested its full spectrum disinfection system on 22 microorganisms, studying nearly 2,000 samples in several independent labs all over the world," said Gentant.

Saul is able to kill a single strand of ribonucleic acid, a virus similar to Ebola, two meters out in any direction, within five minutes at an efficiency rate of 99.9 percent, Genant explained.

"Hospitals that have used this have been able to bring infection rates down in many cases 60 percent," she continued.

Recently the surgical team was trained on this robot, with the goal Saul will rotate throughout the hospital.

"Our surgical services groups have already been trained on this, so we will use them as well as our service representative for a train the trainer type program, said Kerchenski."

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