Xenex, Princess Warrior

A germ-killing robot uses powerful flashes of ultraviolet-C light to kill germs in patients’ rooms at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in a demonstration Thursday morning. Photo by Bob King

This morning, Bob King and I joined other media in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center, to watch a killer at work.

The killer is a robot with the brand name Xenex. This particular Xenex is named Estell. A spokeswoman for the Xenex company in San Antonio told me there are Xenex robots in some 200 hospitals nationwide, but none other is named Estell. Naming each robot individually is one of the quirks of the company that was founded by two Houston epidemiologists in 2008.

Estell kills germs. It uses xenon ultraviolet light that is  25,000 times brighter than sunlight to eliminate germs even Mr. Clean can’t touch, the spokeswoman told me. I’ll get into more specifics in my story in Friday’s Duluth News Tribune, but I can tell you that it kills germs that cause really nasty infections. Bleach can kill such germs, if properly applied. But bleach leaves odors in the room and stains and leaves holes in clothing, said Cindi Welch, the hospital’s infection prevention manager. The Xenex leaves nothing behind.

Germ warfare is serious business for hospitals. About one out of every 20 hospitalized patients in the United States winds up with a health care-acquired infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The Xenex spokeswoman told me that hospitals using their robots have cut their infection rates by 50 percent or more.

Look for more details in Friday’s Duluth News Tribune.

John Lundy covers health and related issues for The Duluth News Tribune. Reach him at jlundy@duluthnews.com or (218) 720-4103.


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