Got A Superbug? Bring In The Robots | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Got A Superbug? Bring In The Robots

Play associated audio

Drug-resistant bacteria are a growing problem at hospitals across the country. The bacteria, such as Staphylococcus and Clostridium difficile, are difficult to prevent and impossible to treat.

"The problem is expanding, and it's going up and up and up," explains Dr. Trish Perl of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. "We're running out of antibiotics to treat, and so the challenge is can we prevent?"

At Johns Hopkins, doctors have turned to a new technology to prevent the so-called superbugs: robots. The machines spray toxic doses of hydrogen peroxide into sealed hospital rooms, killing any bacteria.

Germ-killing Robots

Before the robots can be switched on, the rooms are made ready by a technician. Michael Duclos showed host Laura Sullivan, host of weekends on All Things Considered, how he prepares a room by closing off air vents and opening up drawers.

"We want to get the hydrogen peroxide on all the surfaces," he said.

The last step in the process is to tape the door to the room shut to keep the toxic hydrogen peroxide mist from getting out. For 30 minutes, the robots spray a colorless, odorless vapor. If a person walked in, he wouldn't be able to breath or open his eyes.

Saving Lives

When the robots are done infecting, the room looks the same, but is clean and safe for patients. Since Johns Hopkins started using the machines, it has seen the number of untreatable infections fall by a stunning 64 percent.

Doctors there say they hope other hospitals will follow suit.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

In An Earthquake, History Fuels One Writer's Anxiety

An earthquake in Napa Valley this week brought back old fears for author Gustavo Arellano. In his anxiety he's revisiting the book A Crack in the Edge of the World.
NPR

Real Vanilla Isn't Plain. It Depends On (Dare We Say It) Terroir

There's no such thing as plain vanilla — at least if you're talking about beans from the vanilla orchid. Whether it's from Tahiti or Madagascar, vanilla can be creamy, spicy or even floral.
NPR

Federal Judge Blocks Texas Restriction On Abortion Clinics

Requiring every center that performs abortions to meet all the standards of a surgical center is excessively restrictive, says the federal district court judge who blocked the state rule Friday.
NPR

An App Can Reveal When Withdrawal Tremors Are Real

You probably haven't thought about whether your phone could help diagnose alcohol withdrawal. Well, it can. An app for doctors measures tremors and may help tell if someone's faking it to get drugs.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.