UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals

Animals exposed to treated air from patient rooms less likely to be infected, study finds

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TUESDAY, March 17, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Ultraviolet lights and negative air ionizers may help decrease the spread of tuberculosis in hospitals, researchers suggest.

The scientists conducted tests on guinea pigs exposed to air from patient rooms in a hospital in Lima, Peru, where TB is a common health problem.

The study found that 35 percent of guinea pigs exposed to untreated patient room air developed TB infection, compared to 14 percent of those exposed to air treated with a negative air ionizer and 9.5 percent of animals exposed to air from patient rooms that had UV lights and fans installed on the ceiling, said Rod Escombe, of Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

The 900 guinea pigs used in the study were placed in cages on the roof of the hospital, and air from patient rooms was vented directly into the cages. Because guinea pigs are susceptible to airborne infection with M. tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, the animals can act as a detection system for infectious TB particles.

The study appears online in the journal PLoS Medicine.

TB transmission in overcrowded health care facilities is a major public health concern, especially in centers with few resources, with populations affected by HIV, and where drug-resistant TB is common.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about TB.

SOURCE: PLoS Medicine, news release, March 16, 2009

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