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To evaluate the performance of a new mobile air-treatment unit that uses nonthermal-plasma reactors for lowering the airborne bioburden in critical hospital environments and reducing the risk of nosocomial infection due to opportunistic airborne pathogens, such as Aspergillus fumigatus.
Tests were conducted in 2 different high-risk hospital areas: an operating room under simulated conditions and rooms hosting patients in a pediatric hematology ward. Operating room testing provided performance evaluations of removal rates for airborne contamination (ie, particles larger than 0.5 μm) and overall lowering of the airborne bioburden (ie, colony-forming units of total mesophilic flora and fungal flora per cubic meter of air). In the hematology service, opportunistic and nonpathogenic airborne fungal levels in a patient's room equipped with an air-treatment unit were compared to those in a control room.
In an operating room with a volume of 118 m3, the time required to lower the concentration of airborne particles larger than 0.5 μm by 90% was decreased from 12 minutes with the existing high-efficiency particulate air filtration system to less than 2 minutes with the units tested, with a 2-log decrease in the steady-state levels of such particles (P<.01). Concurrently, total airborne mesophilic flora concentrations dropped by a factor of 2, and the concentrations of fungal species were reduced to undetectable levels (P<.01). The 12-day test period in the hematology ward revealed a significant reduction in airborne fungus levels (P<.01), with average reductions of 75% for opportunistic species and 82% for nonpathogenic species.
Our data indicate that the mobile, nonthermal-plasma air treatment unit tested in this study can rapidly reduce the levels of airborne particles and significantly lower the airborne bioburden in high-risk hospital environments.
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