A study by doctors and researchers from Wits found that ultraviolet technology could help decrease hospital mortality rates.  

The Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre, South Africa’s first private teaching hospital, has found that the spread of the bacteria: carbapenem-resistant enterobacterales (CRE) can be lowered by 23% using ultraviolet (UV) technology.  

The institution, which conducted a study on the bacteria over a two year and two-month period, released their findings to the public in the British journal, The Journal of Hospital Infections, in March 2022.  

Their study examined five high-risk patient units: gastrointestinal surgery, oncology, transplants, and critical care. Three hundred patients were part of the study and showed a 23% reduction in transmission of the bacteria when a combination of ultraviolet technology and physical cleaning were used. 


The UVDI-360 room sanitiser is a decontamination device that was supplied to the hospital by the US-based company UVDI and eHealthGroup Infection Control and was central to this find.  

CRE is set of drug-resistant microorganisms that do not respond to antibiotics and have posed a challenge to global health care systems. Clinical Microbiologist, Dr Jennifer Coetzee, from Ampath Laboratories in Pretoria, said that even the “the second line [of] antibiotics do not necessarily work as well, and as a result the mortality is much higher.”  

In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Dr Warren Lowman, the lead investigator of the study explained that the bacteria affect transplant patients, oncology patients, and any kind of chronic condition patients who require multiple hospitalisations – making up most of their hospital admissions.  

Dr Jennifer Coetzee said the reason for high transmission numbers among patients is, “they might [have] the CRE bacteria for weeks or months afterwards,” meaning they are still infectious. 

Some, like Dr Lowman, remain sceptical of the technology, which has gained prominence in the last decade across parts of the US and Europe, as there is not enough information supporting its efficacy.  

Though an essential discovery, Dr Jeremy Nel, an infectious diseases and internal medicine Professor at Wits, stressed that implementation will be an issue because of the high cost of ultraviolet devices. Still, he believes, “we need every bit of help we can get with CREs, and this study suggests that UV-C disinfection might be something to consider.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: UV machine being set up at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. Photo: Rufaro Chiswo


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