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FIGHTING COVID-19


between engineering personnel and mathematicians and epidemiologists ‘offers the potential to quantitatively link environment design and practice to risk’.


Research currently under way Among several areas where research is currently under way that may inform the strategy to limit hospital-onset infection in future pandemics are: n Point-of-care diagnostics: To prevent virus transmission, it would be advantageous to have early warning of which infections patients, visitors, or staff, may be carrying through more extensive real-time testing.9


n Biosensing: Developments in this area would provide benefits for those looking to manage infection sources in the environment.


n Digital technology: Engineers are investigating the role of sensors to allow adaptive control of healthcare environments to detect and respond to threats. This data collection will improve the ability to model scenarios to aid both the design for, and the management of, infection.10


n Ventilation modelling: Theoretically- based modelling work on designing for


infection control and optimisation could play a useful role in informing both ventilation and energy efficiency measures. Modelling touch contact transmission may also help enable PPE considerations to be simulated.11


n New biomaterials and coatings: Identification of new materials and coatings to provide antibacterial function and surface technologies for a range of clinical applications.


n Robotics: Increased use of robotic systems to disinfect continuously and/or within hard-to-reach or dangerous settings, monitor temperature in public areas and points of entry, assist with testing (e.g. swabbing and transport of samples), and help keep non-COVID-19 patients out of hospital, are all under investigation.12


n Future hospital design or retrofit: Consideration of how hospitals are designed to adapt in emergency scenarios.


n Future preparedness: Understanding the ‘generalisable’ lessons for this and any future pandemics in terms of creating more resilient environments. Working collaboratively on these engineering themes will ensure that new innovations meet the necessary clinical need, building resilience into the UK health service.


M Squared, a finalist last year for The MacRobert Award (for engineering innovation), has been working with the University of Southampton and the University of Strathclyde to develop a novel ultraviolet-C laser light source. The SolsTIS laser delivers a power density reportedly seven times higher than typical UV-C lamps, allowing rapid disinfection at a lower wavelength ‘that is safer for the user’.


Posted online 28 August 2019 [https://tinyurl.com/y783n9gu].


8 Health Standards Organization Disinfection Needs Identification Tool [https://tinyurl.com/ya4jrley].


9 Department of Health & Social Care. Coronavirus (COVID-19). Scaling up our testing programmes, 4 April 2020 [https://tinyurl.com/vg9v7lb].


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n To view the Royal Academy of Engineering paper, COVID-19: Engineering a resilient future, visit https://tinyurl.com/y8v88d2q


n The Executive Summary of the Rapid Review of engineering factors that will influence the spread of COVID-19 in hospital environments is accessible at https://tinyurl.com/yb9k7nsu


References 1 Public Heath England, 2020. Reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the hospital setting [https://tinyurl.com/y8olguwq].


2 REHVA. COVID-19 Guidance. 2020 [https://tinyurl.com/y82z88f5].


3 Miller SL, Clements N, Elliott SA, Subhash MS, Eagan A. Radonovich LJ. Implementing a negative-pressure isolation ward for a surge in airborne infectious patients. Am J Infect Control 2017; 45 (6): 652-9.


4 Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage. UV-C photocarcinogenesis risks from germicidal lamps. CIE 187: 2010. ISBN 978 3 901906 81 7.


5 Finsen Technologies. THOR UVC high-output UV disinfection robot [https://www.finsentech.com/thor-uvc].


Many hospitals already use UV robots for sterilisation for room cleaning between patients. Finsen Technologies’ Finsen Tech THOR UVC system uses radar technology to map its surroundings to establish that the room is clean and eliminate human error.


20 Health Estate Journal September 2020


6 Using copper to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. Science Daily. University of Southampton, 10 November 2015 [ https://tinyurl.com/yctuxd83].


7 New antimicrobial coating could be key in fight against hospital-acquired infections. University of Birmingham.


Engineering can potentially help with the speed and effectiveness of handwashing. Sloan Water Technology taps deliver water containing tiny bubbles activated by sound waves. This creates a microscopic scrubbing action that could enable faster and more effective cleaning.


10 Adhikari B, Lewis B, Vullikanti A, Jiménez JM, Prakash BA. Fast and near-optimal monitoring for healthcare acquired infection outbreaks. PLoS Comput Biol 2019; 15 (9): e1007284 [https://tinyurl.com/y9vn355k].


11 University of Leeds Hospital Environment Control, Optimisation and Infection Risk Assessment research programme. EPSRC Project 2017- 2021 [https://tinyurl.com/yc4zv9z4].


12 Yang G-Z, Nelson BJ, Murphy RR et al. Combating COVID-19 – The role of robotics in managing public health and infectious diseases. Sci Robot 2020; 5 (40): eabb5589 [https://tinyurl.com/y93zrddd].


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