21 May 2021
James Stinson By James Stinson

Infection Prevention & Sterilisation: Stopping the Spread of COVID-19.

What a difference 18 months can make.

Infection prevention and sterilisation has gone from being an unsung hero of healthcare to one of the most important markets in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on the space, increasing awareness about personal hygiene as well as creating a surge in demand for personnel protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning and disinfectant products throughout healthcare.

This has forced companies to innovate and adapt to these extraordinary circumstances, which I’m pleased to say they have. This is true for all its markets: PPE, hand and surface hygiene, sterilisation and disinfection of equipment, plus ultraviolet (UV) disinfection.

In this article, I want to discuss some of the companies contributing within each of these markets and champion the hard work that’s helped minimise the spread of COVID-19.

PPE

There’s been a dramatic increase in the demand for PPE. This has been boosted by the implementation of stringent PPE policies by global regulatory authorities in attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.

As a leading manufacturer and distributor of PPE, Medicom was well-placed at the start of the pandemic to respond. After all, the company had already provided PPE and infection control solutions throughout numerous other health crises, including epidemics and pandemics such as the Avian Flu, SARS, H1N1 and Ebola.

However, what’s been most impressive is how the Quebec company has managed to adapt and expand its production to meet the unprecedented demand for PPE. Within six months of the pandemic, Medicom had opened a further six manufacturing sites – giving the company a presence in 95 countries around the world.

While the manufacturing capabilities of Medicom have been both crucial and impressive, so has the innovation of companies like Mölnlycke.

In October 2020, the company launched its innovative Biogel PI UltraTouch S surgical glove to address the escalating issue of allergic contact dermatitis among surgical teams, caused by exposure to chemical additives used in the manufacturing of gloves.

These surgical gloves have been designed with a new skin-friendly formula that is clinically proven to minimise the risk of allergic contact dermatitis in the operating room. This was the first surgical glove to be cleared by the FDA to reduce the potential for sensitising users to chemical additives.

The introduction of such gloves was a huge success for the space, with skin reactions rife among healthcare workers. In a Mölnlycke-commissioned survey conducted by SERMO, 60% of surgeons and nurses said they’d suffered from a skin reaction in 2020. The same report also claimed that it put a strain on hospitals and health systems with lost productivity and occupational treatment costs. So, you can see how important this PPE innovation was.

Hand & Surface Hygiene

Like the PPE market, there was also a quick and crucial response from the hand and surface hygiene space.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is estimated to survive several days on surfaces. With transmission also facilitated by touch and contaminated hands, frequent cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and hand hygiene has been critical to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Infection prevention specialist, PDI, was one of the first companies to join the COVID-19 response– testing the efficacy of its hand and surface hygiene products in April 2020. Since then, PDI has created an impressive product offering to combat the virus including Super Sani-Cloth wipes. This is one of the leading disinfectant wipes in healthcare, which also received FDA approval for the SARS-CoV-2 efficacy back in September 2020.

When it comes to products and programs, Ecolab’s healthcare division has an equally broad portfolio of solutions designed to address COVID-19 including hospital disinfectants, hand hygiene solutions and other cleaning products.   

With COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites continuing to be crucial in the global response to the pandemic, versatile and easy-to-use cleaning and disinfecting solutions remain essential for speedy and safe room turnover. In high-risk settings such as these, with large populations quickly moving in and out of facilities for care, proper surface and hand disinfection have been critical.

The introduction of Ecolab’s Disinfectant 1 Wipe and Disinfectant 1 Spray, along with other Ecolab’s products, have provided crucial support for this.

While wipe manufacturers globally have been met with supply issues throughout the pandemic, Ecolab has remained agile, overcoming this barrier by working with multiple suppliers to help ensure a steady supply of the Disinfectant 1 Wipe for its customers during this critical time.

Like Ecolab and PDI, GAMA Healthcare is another company at the cutting edge of infection prevention technology which has offered crucial support during the pandemic.

GAMA’s Clinell Universal Wipes are effective against SARS-CoV-2 in just 30 seconds of contact time, making them an appealing product. The wipes are now used to keep surfaces and equipment safe in 9 out of 10 NHS hospitals.

That’s not all GAMA has been up to. In 2020, the company launched Rediroom for the NHS. Assembling in just under five minutes, the room allows safe isolation to control further risk of infection. This is on top of the company’s Violet UV Room Sanitiser, a unique technology that provides extra protection to final cleaning.

Sterilisation & Disinfection Equipment

The NHS and other healthcare systems have also been supported by the crucial work of companies providing products that sterilise and disinfect hospital products. This has been especially important for endoscopic equipment which has been used extensively to care for COVID-19 patients.

Steris has been at the forefront of the sterilisation and disinfection equipment sector. Thanks to acquisitions of Cantel Medical and Key Surgical, the company is set to continue to be at the heart of the COVID-19 response in this area.

UV Disinfection

Within the disinfection space, UV technology has also continued to see an uptake in its adoption. For example, CleanSlate UV, a Toronto-based biosafety company that’s focused on sanitising mobile devices, has achieved a 1200% year on year (YoY) during the pandemic.

Mobile devices are a gap in many healthcare facilities' infection control processes, with an average of one in four hospital devices being contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and viruses. However, CleanSlate UV sanitises three to four phones in just 20 seconds using UV light. This provides comprehensive personal hygiene to hospital and vaccination site staff, visitors and patients.

In May 2021, the company announced a joint donation with Linamar Corporation to support healthcare facilities across Ontario. This included the donation of 100 CleanSlate UV sanitisers with no charge, which will provide crucial support for healthcare in the Canadian region.

Like CleanSlate, San Antonio-based Xenex has played a crucial role during the global pandemic. In 2020, this was recognised by Frost & Sullivan with the Global Company of the Year Award.

Over the last decade, the company has distributed and implemented procedures for its LightStrike robots to disinfect patient rooms at private and government hospitals. However, when the company alerted medical providers in 2020 that the robot also eradicated SARS-CoV-2, orders poured in.

By November 2020, the business had grown by 600% and Xenex was awarded a $20 million contract to Astronics Corporation - so it would have another manufacturing facility working to meet demand.

Along with hospitals throughout the world, including in Italy and Japan, LightStrike robots have been purchased for hotels like the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, airports, convention centres and even professional sports facilities like the Carolina Panthers stadium.

Locally, the company also launched a StrikeForce program where staff will bring a robot to a business - places like restaurants and nursing homes - that don’t need it multiple times a day but want to disinfect after someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The UV space is brimming with exciting technologies. For example, UVD Robots is also taking the fight to COVID-19 with its UVD Robot. This autonomous disinfecting robot is equipped with UV-C light that kills viruses and bacteria on surfaces and in the air.

This year, the robot was selected by the EU Commission to supply 200 of its autonomous disinfecting robots to EU hospitals fighting the coronavirus. That’s after UVD Robots’ tender ranked first in the EU Commission’s review of disinfecting robots evaluating technical excellence and maturity of technology, quality of approach in deployment, response time in technical support and maintenance and overall value.

As you can see, there’s so much important work that’s been achieved in infection prevention and sterilisation to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There’s no doubt that this has saved countless lives. The global pandemic has presented our industry with one of the biggest challenges it’s ever faced and I’m proud to see how companies and professionals in the space have responded.

If you’d like to speak to me about this article or have any hiring needs within infection prevention and sterilisation, please give me an email at James.Stinson@medical-cm.com.

You can find more about myself and my medical content on my profile page.

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James Stinson

James Stinson is a Senior Consultant that specialises in recruitment within infection prevention, patient handling & medical robotics. With experience working on behalf of major clients globally, James possesses the knowledge, skills and specialist network necessary to successfully build talented commercial teams for his clients. Having also published articles about innovative technologies in his specialist sectors, James’ passion and dedication to these medical areas is there for all to see.

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