Palm Beach County businesses seize opportunity in supergerm battle [The Palm Beach Post, Fla. :: ]
(Palm Beach Post (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 21--Supergerms pose a menace to hospital patients, but they create an opportunity for entrepreneurs.
With drug-resistant microbes rampant in some hospitals and nursing homes, Palm Beach County companies are building businesses to battle bacteria.
Palm Beach Gardens inventor Chris Chilvers sells ultraviolet lights that slay staph and other microbes. Boca Raton businessman Bob Lee is developing a system that alerts doctors and nurses if they forget to wash their hands before entering a patient's room. And Tequesta entrepreneur John Gildersleeve sells a spray that promises to protect surfaces from supergerms for months at a time.
Chilvers runs MRSA-UV, an 18-month-old company that makes UV devices to kill Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other germs, including norovirus, HIV and e. coli. Prices range from $595 for a handheld device to $3,995 for a unit that can disinfect an entire hospital room.
"You just roll the unit into a room, put up a sign that says do not enter, and hit a remote control," Chilvers said. "Almost as soon as you turn it on, all the staph are dead."
Sounds like a tall claim, but staph experts say it's true.
"In general, UV light is really good at killing microbes," said Stanley Kim, a Naples immunologist and patent attorney.
Chilvers pitches the units as a way for hospitals to quickly and easily kill germs. He said he has sold hundreds of units, including several to West Palm Beach Fire Rescue. The department bought MRSA-UV devices to disinfect ambulances.
UV lights are effective at disinfecting hard-to-clean areas like ceilings and instrument knobs, Chilvers said. And while staph can adapt to disinfectants that are sprayed on them, Chilvers pitches his devices as a staph killer that the hearty germs can't adapt to.
"It does not increase the resistance of the bacteria like some other procedures do," Chilvers said.
Bob Lee, head of Medical Data Management of Boca Raton, is taking a different approach. He aims to nudge doctors to wash their hands more often.
While doctors are supposed to pause for handwashing before and after every patient, they do so less than half the time, Lee said.
"There's a big cover-up going on," Lee said. "If you were to go into a hospital today, they'd tell you their compliance rate is 90 percent. Even the (Centers for Disease Control) says it's less than 50 percent."
Lee's solution is an ultrasound system that puts sensors in soap dispensers and on doctors' ID badges.
"If you haven't washed your hands, your badge will beep at you," Lee said. "We know that subtle reminders improve compliance."
Handwashing reminders aren't new. Radio frequency monitoring systems already are available. But those systems are expensive and can be incompatible with hospital equipment, Lee said.
He said his system is less costly -- about $250,000 for a 200-bed hospital -- and, because it uses ultrasound instead of radio frequency, doesn't interfere with medical equipment.
Unlike MRSA-UV, though, Medical Data Management's product is still in development, and Lee is working on his first sale. Anticipating a big payoff, Lee said he has invested $500,000 of his own money into developing his monitoring systems.
"My wife is going to kill me," Lee joked.
Meanwhile, John Gildersleeve of Heathier Environments in Tequesta sells Add-A-Shield, a spray that he likens to the windshield wax Rain-X. Apply the spray to counters, bed rails and other surfaces, Gildersleeve says, and it creates microscopic spikes that stab microbes.
The spray is made by PureShield of Jupiter, a firm run by Joseph Raich, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to a felony charge of distributing steroids and human growth hormone.
Gildersleeve said the spray costs a penny a square foot and lasts three months, making it a bargain.
"This is not a cure-all for supergerms," he said, "but it is an extra layer of protection."
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