Germ-zapping ‘robots’: Hospitals combat superbugs

A machine disinfected a hospital room using ultraviolet light at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.
A machine disinfected a hospital room using ultraviolet light at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

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NEW YORK — They sweep. They swab. They sterilize. And still the germs persist.

In US hospitals, an estimated 1 in 20 patients pick up infections they didn’t have when they arrived, some caused by dangerous “superbugs” that are hard to treat.

The rise of these superbugs, along with increased pressure from the government and insurers, is driving hospitals to try all sorts of approaches to stop their spread: machines that resemble ‘‘Star Wars’’ robots and emit ultraviolet light or hydrogen peroxide vapors; germ-resistant copper bed rails, call buttons, and IV poles; antimicrobial linens, curtains, and wall paint.

While these products can help get a room clean, their impact is debatable. There is no widely accepted evidence that these inventions have prevented infections or deaths.

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