A West Midlands SME has developed a device with a now proven ability to kill airborne superbugs such as MRSA and C-difficile in Britain's hospitals.
In a 2007 London hospital clinical trial, doctors were surprised and delighted when a ward in which the device had been placed was subsequently found to be clear of MRSA infections.
Now, very recently in the autumn of 2008, the product has successfully completed a year long trial against Clostridium difficile.
Brierley Hill based Pathogen Solutions, which developed Medixair, has now submitted the product to the Department of Health for NHS approval with long term plans already in place for the product to be taken broadly into the UK market by GE Healthcare.
Business Development Director Geoffrey Smith said: "We have spent a lot of time and money as an SME developing a product with the capability to intervene effectively, safely and with very positive results against the airborne transmission of infection within hospital wards".
At the turn of the millennium, the company had been asked by a food industry client to design a UV product that would kill bacteria and viruses in a food processing environment.
Over the next two years Pathogen Solutions engineers developed Medixair. The concept was simple; contaminated air being drawn into the device at a fixed speed. Within the Medixair device, the air was exposed to very high energy levels sourced from ultraviolet light for a fixed amount of time. On its emergence there was found to be a 99.9999 per cent reduction in all bacteria and viruses.
At this point in the product development cycle the executives at Pathogen Solutions realised that Medixair presented significant potential within and outside the food industry.
Looking deeply into the questions being raised by the rising incidence of hospital-acquired infection, the company became convinced that whilst hand-washing and surface cleaning play a critical role in maintaining good hygiene levels within hospital environments too little attention was being addressed to the airborne movement of disease.
An intense period of research was then begun, to establish unequivocal evidence that airborne transmission of bacterial and viral infection within hospitals was a reality and that a device designed specifically to intervene in such transmission would have an important role to play in the control of hospital acquired infection.
At the time of the SARS epidemic Medixair sold well in the Far East through its parent organisation, Brandenburg UK Limited. However, as Geoffrey Smith points out, "from a commercial point of view the company was not ready at that point in time to market Medixair broadly into global healthcare markets". As such, Pathogen Solutions Limited was created and all activities relating to product development, the creation of commercial alliances around the world and the staging of continuing clinical research programmes have, since that time, been managed through a dedicated company.
During early 2002, Pathogen Solutions was put into contact with Health Tech and through that relationship a long period of important advice and support has taken place; critically embracing the establishment of pivotal clinical trial activity within an acute London Hospital.
The context of this trial was that, working under the direction and coordination of the Consultant Microbiologist, two side wards where MRSA was prevalent, were used - one fitted with Medixair and one not - swabs being taken from 13 locations in each room three times a week.
The room with the device was found to be significantly clearer of MRSA infection every time it was checked. Also in the same room, no patient became colonised with MRSA throughout the period of the trial whilst, in the room not fitted with Medixair, 40 per cent of the patient swabs for MRSA colonisation were positive.
This result was repeated in a "crossover trial" when the Medixair device was placed in the room with a higher incidence of MRSA.
This success story has now been repeated at the same hospital following a year long trial against Clostridium difficile.
Medixair has also produced excellent infection control results in Malaysia where in excess of 1,000 units are installed in intensive care wards and burns units within the government hospital network.
The Managing Director of Pathogen Solutions, Mr John Burrows said: "We are delighted to have brought a product to market that will produce positive outcomes within the global healthcare sector. Health Tech was able to give us guidance early in this process which saved us going down any number of blind alleys, as well as steering us towards a successful clinical trial."