A germ-killing robot designed to rid a room of dangerous viruses in minutes is being used to keep hospitals Ebola-free. Called ‘Little Moe’, the robot works by damaging viral DNA using pulses of ultraviolet light.
It is currently being used in 250 hospitals and health facilities across the US, including a Dallas hospital where a patient with the first case of Ebola diagnosed in America is being treated. The robot rolls around on four wheels and uses xenon, a non-toxic gas, to create the ultraviolet rays needed to destroy viruses.
The robot was first made available in 2010 and each unit costs £65,000 ($104,000).
‘Our robot ensures the room is safe for the next patient by destroying germs on high-touch surfaces, and in hard to clean nooks and crannies,’ a spokesperson for Xenex said.
Ebola, however, is actually easier to kill than other infectious diseases such as superbugs that mutate and become immune to disinfection.
It takes just two minutes for the robot to destroy Ebola on a surface, while other viruses can be eradicated in five minutes.
Such technology, using UV rays to sterilise a room, has been around for decades, but Little Moe speeds up the process by using xenon in place of mercury.
By comparison, a mercury-based UV machine takes up to an hour to disinfect a room.
‘Our mission has always been to eliminate the pathogens that cause the infections that impact the health and lives of millions of patients and their families, and Ebola is no different,’ Xenex said in a statement.
Ebola emerged in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are several strains, which vary in how dangerous they are to humans, but death rates have reached as high as 90 per cent.
In the current outbreak it is just over 50 per cent.
The virus is introduced into humans through direct contact with the blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals including fruit bats, which are eaten as a delicacy.
Symptoms include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
People are infectious as long as their blood and bodily fluids contain the virus and the incubation period can range between two and 21 days.