AF hospital adds ‘virus-zapping' robot to inventory

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Antoinette Gibson
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Standing at 5 feet 2 inches tall, U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley's newest staff member doesn't initially have a commanding presence; however, after five minutes, its impact has the potential to save countless lives around the world.

The 633rd Medical Group received a germ-zapping robot, nicknamed “Saul,” which harnesses the power of technology to kill off viruses -- including the Ebola virus. Airmen were given a demonstration of the robots functions and capabilities from Geri Genant, the Xenex Healthcare Services implementation manager.

Shortly after the president issued an executive order addressing the critical issue of Ebola, the 633rd MDG responded with cutting-edge technology to protect the health of the service members, their families and the community.

The hospital staff partnered up with Xenex, the company that created Saul as part of a response plan designated to ensure the 633rd MDG is equipped to handle viruses like Ebola.

"We are very proud to be the first Air Force hospital to have this robot," said Col. Marlene Kerchenski, the 633rd MDG Surgeon General chief of nursing services. "Saul will provide an extra measure of safety for both our patients and our intensive care unit staff."

According to Genant, after patient and operation rooms are cleaned, the robot uses pulses of high-intensity, high-energy ultraviolet rays 25,000 times brighter than florescent lights to split open bacterial cell walls and kill dangerous pathogens commonly found in hospitals.

Although each room is cleaned by hospital staff wearing proper protection equipment and using cleaning chemicals, harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi still linger in some areas, especially those human hands can't reach. As an additional patient safety measure, the Xenex robot can then disinfect a room in five minutes and destroy Ebola-like viruses on any surface in two minutes, according to Dr. Mark Stibich, Xenex's founder and chief scientific officer, as reported by CBS Houston.

"Xenex has tested its full spectrum disinfection system on 22 microorganisms, studying nearly 2,000 samples in several independent labs all over the world," Gentant said.

Saul is able to kill a single strand of ribonucleic acid, lika that of a virus similar to Ebola, two meters out in any direction, within five minutes at an efficiency rate of 99.9 percent, Genant explained.

"Hospitals that have used this have been able to bring infection rates down in many cases 60 percent," she continued.

Recently the surgical team was trained how to use the robot, with the goal Saul will rotate throughout the hospital.

"Our surgical services groups have already been trained on this, so we will use them as well as our service representative for a train the trainer type program,” Kerchenski said.

Throughout the coming weeks, the technology will be used as a preventative measure to help eradicate and control viruses.