Aged care project investigating potential of UV light against COVID

A Flinders University study is exploring the effectiveness of ultraviolet light to reduce rates of respiratory viral infections in residential aged care facilities.

A Flinders University study is exploring the effectiveness of ultraviolet light to reduce rates of respiratory viral infections in residential aged care facilities.

The study, which has received $1.4 million from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund’s Clinical Trials Activity Initiative, aims to limit transmission of COVID-19 within residential aged care facilities.

Lead read researcher Professor Geraint Rogers said the study involves installing UV light sources into air conditioning units in several aged care facilities.

UV light can damage viral particles in the air, said Professor Rogers, director of Microbiome and Host Health research at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Matthew Flinders Professor at the College of Medicine and Public Health.

“By fitting UV sources within air conditioning systems, the hope is that as viral particles pass through those systems, the UV will kill the virus,” Professor Rogers tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

Professor Geraint Rogers

“It would have to be retrofitted into facilities and every facility is different. In some places, residents have their own air conditioning systems in their rooms while  other places have ducted systems. So in each case, we’re going to have a slightly different strategy,” he said.

Professor Rogers said the study would look at other seasonal respiratory viruses that cause coughs, colds and the flu as a surrogate measure of COVID-19.

 Professor Rogers said the study aims to reduce the “devastating” impact a COVID outbreak can have in aged care as seen internationally and in Australia.

“To date, most of the measures that are in place to try to protect people in aged care are the standard measures we use across the healthcare system such as hand hygiene, social distancing and restricting where people can work,” he said.

“We hope to achieve an additional tool to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, and in doing so protect arguably the most vulnerable,” he said.

“If we can protect frail older people in residential aged care, then it is a strategy which might be appropriate elsewhere as well, such as for people who are in high dependency hospital units and people who have severely increased risks for poor outcomes with COVID-19.”

An example of a wall-mounted germicidal UV appliance.

The study is going to use existing technology in a new way that can easily be rolled out to all facilities after the trial if its effective, Professor Rogers said.

“We wanted to develop something which could be added rapidly to the residential aged care system and wouldn’t place a burden on the staff or the residents and wouldn’t interfere with their normal daily practices or their lives,” he said.

 “Apart from having a requirement to use a little bit of electricity and some installation costs, there isn’t a particular downside to this technology.”

The two-year trial is expected to commence in July.

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Tags: coronavirus, COVID19, flinders university, geraint rogers, infection control, SAHMRI, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, uv light,

2 thoughts on “Aged care project investigating potential of UV light against COVID

  1. UVGI is not a new technology. Its already fitted in some buildings. The challenges with UVGI are. Expensive to install and operate. Replacement UVGI light tubes are expensive. The system needs to be switched off when performing periodical maintenance. UV light tubes need to be cleaned frequency (monthly) as dust collecting on the light tubes reduces the effectiveness of the UV light. Air flow needs to be recirculated over the UV lights several times to work, a single pass over a UV light will not be effective. Light only travels in a straight line, therefore ac ducts with many bends will prove difficult to effectively clean the air.

  2. True…UVGI is not new technology. Personally I prefer the systems that circulate the air 4 to 6 times an hour and are made for occupied spaces. They can be run 24/7 safely because they pull the air into the system and pass it through an irradiation chamber where the UV lights are’s about rate distance in time over the UV light and the right system allows for it. There’s a 99% kill rate on the first pass through on many viruses, germs, bacteria, mold. The simplicity of just plugging these systems in makes it ideal. Lamps need to be changed once a year and don’t need to be dusted off.

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