PPE rethink relieves supply chain stress

PPEManaging and adapting products and services to relieve strain from supply chains is essential to eradicate the effect of the coronavirus crisis on the health sector, says Tautvydas Karitonas, Head of R&D for Inivos.

Here, Karitonas outlines the importance of technological development and why hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) and ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light are becoming key tools in the fight against coronavirus.

Every day, an update to the coronavirus (COVID-19) UK death toll makes headlines. So far, more than 20,000 hospital deaths – including more than 100 NHS staff – have been recorded since the first confirmed case in the UK.

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The shortage of PPE supply across the country has left thousands of health professionals with seemingly no option other than to reuse their masks, gowns and goggles – all of which are designed to be disposed of.

NHS Trusts are having to make an impossible decision about what is safer: asking their frontline staff to reuse PPE or sending them into a clinical environment without protection. It is a choice no one should have to make but, faced with dwindling stock of PPE, professionals in supplies are having to consider it.

Engineers across all sectors have thrown their efforts into developing solutions for the challenges created by the global pandemic. Vacuum manufacturers have halted production in favour of building ventilators, pharmaceutical R&D teams have united to search for a vaccine on the shortest possible timeline – and it is no different in the decontamination sector.

Hydrogen peroxide vapour has long been used as a powerful decontaminant to kill micro-organisms by a process of oxidisation which destroys the cell wall. Research has shown it can eradicate significantly more resistant micro-organisms, such as c.difficile, and research is ongoing to confirm its anticipated efficacy against COVID-19.

Cross-sector collaboration and development is more vital than ever

A few weeks ago, when NHS Trusts started to become concerned about possible PPE shortages on the horizon, they asked Inivos if our technology could be used to decontaminate disposable PPE. Pilot schemes in the US had already indicated that hydrogen peroxide vapour could effectively decontaminate PPE exposed to geobacillus stearothermophilus, giving disposable PPE 20 additional uses if necessary.

We got the engineering team together and asked ourselves, how can we help?

The result was our ProXpod, a rapid deployment decontamination chamber designed to provide effective and safe decontamination of PPE ranging from gowns to visors and even facemasks. Used with automated decontamination technology, such as ProXcide, to produce hydrogen peroxide vapour, capable of achieving high efficacy with a low chemical concentration through ultra-sonic dispersal, PPE can be decontaminated quickly and effectively.

Ultraviolet-C light has also been shown to be effective in decontaminating micro-organisms at varying levels of resistance. Like HPV, it does this by breaking down the cell wall and eradicating the genetic material within. Known for decontaminating spaces in impressively short times and therefore a popular solution for busy A&E units, it is a less compelling choice for the decontamination of PPE due the possibility of shadows, cast by the folds in fabric, blocking the UV-C rays.

The two technologies can be used across health practises and PPE to destroy microorganisms. Their ability to effectively decontaminate their surrounding areas in a matter of hours provides an immediate answer to the question on whether health professionals can reuse contaminated PPE or go without.

HPV and UV-C are therefore prime examples of how, through different technologies, we can adapt and create solutions that champion the capability of existing methods, products, and services.

Certainly, the safety and protection of health professionals, carers and patients must remain a priority, with the safe reuse of thoroughly decontaminated PPE remaining a safe choice of protection until PPE supply returns to safe levels.

Undoubtedly, cross-sector collaboration and development is more vital than ever. To innovate, we must work together – only then will we be able to fully combat COVID-19.

Tautvydas Karitonas is Head of Research and Development for Inivos.