Germ-zapping Robots Fight C. diff and MRSA at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s

July 16, 2014 2:24 pm
Xenex robot July 2014

The Xenex robot stands at 5’2″ at its tallest. This machine takes on MRSA, C. diff and other bacteria and viruses in a patient room in 15 minutes. It doesn’t use mercury, like other similar machines, but rather xenon gas for its bulb, emitting a light 25,000 times more powerful than the sun.

Health care-associated infections kill more than 75,000 people in the US each year, according to the CDC. To reduce that number locally, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is the first in West Michigan to purchase not one, but two, Xenex UV light disinfection systems, scientifically proven to be effective against the most dangerous pathogens, including Clostridium difficile (C. diff), norovirus, influenza, and staph bacteria, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA.

C. diff can live for up to five months on hard surfaces, while other pathogens can live for days or weeks.

“The automated Xenex room disinfection system has been credited for helping other health care facilities in the US decrease their MRSA and C. diff infection rates by more than 50 percent, according to studies,” said Kent Miller, Director of Environmental Services. “The investment in these robots is another step Mercy Health is taking to reduce the number of serious and even life-threatening infections.”

The pair of Xenex robots at Mercy Health uses patented pulsed xenon ultraviolet (UV-C) light 25,000 times more powerful than sunlight to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and even bacterial spores.

“The light is deadly to bacteria and viruses. The UV-C light breaks up their DNA and causes them to explode,” said Liberty Dykehouse, RN, Infection Control Preventionist at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Because the Xenex robot uses UV light, it is able to reach virtually every surface in the room, and it does not leave a chemical residue. As the Xenex robot contains no mercury or hydrogen peroxide, it stands as the only “green” technology used in automated room disinfection. Since its implementation in 2010, the Xenex device is used in more than 250 hospitals and VA facilities around the nation.

Specially trained staff at Mercy Health use these machines in operating rooms, intensive care and isolation rooms after discharge and in intervention radiology and C-section suites. The Xenex system is easily portable, allowing it to disinfect virtually any location within the hospital, including offices, utility rooms and equipment storage rooms.

The Xenex robots will disinfect up to 30 discharged patient rooms and all 27 Operating Rooms and procedural areas each day.

To disinfect a room after standard discharge cleaning procedures are complete, Mercy Health Environmental Services staff wheels the Xenex robot into the room, positions it beside the bed, begins the automated sequence, and then exits the room.
“It is a great feeling to know that patients entering my rooms have the most sanitary environment I could give them,” said Ashley Maas, an Environmental Services staff member trained in using the robots. The entire cleaning process takes about 15 minutes per room.

“Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is committed to eliminating health care-associated infections and our Xenex robots are taking our ability to disinfect surfaces to a level not previously possible,” said Dykehouse. “Environmental cleaning, antimicrobial stewardship and hand hygiene are the three pillars of Infection Prevention. As an entire hospital, we have been actively engaged in optimizing all of these aspects, but the Xenex systems are really the last piece of our puzzle.”

To learn more about the Xenex robots, visit


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