The brightly lighted R2-D2 lookalike cleans messes that humans can’t even see.

But unlike the droid in the “Star Wars” movies, the Tru-D SmartUVC disinfection system is helping Richmond-area hospitals combat health care-associated infections.

Three Bon Secours locations — St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Francis Medical Center and Memorial Regional Medical Center — and the VCU Medical Center are using Tru-D to disinfect rooms using ultraviolet radiation technology.

When humans clean an operating room, they eliminate only about 50 percent of surface bacteria, according to Khiet Trinh, chief medical officer at St. Mary’s, which purchased one Tru-D system in 2013 and another last year.

The Tru-D system is placed in a room after hospital employees manually wipe and scrub surfaces. It scans the room’s dimensions and bacteria concentration and emits UV light which eliminates 99.99 percent of bacteria, according to Trinh and Tru-D SmartUVC President Chuck Dunn.

“Business safety is the crux of what we do,” Trinh said. “By having this machine, we can assure our patients’ safety to the best of our ability, and we’re giving patients the safest environment possible.”

The Tru-D system has significantly reduced surgical-site infections at the hospital, Trinh said.

The system is especially useful to fight the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C. Difficile bacterial infections, Trinh said. Those infections collectively cause about 25,000 deaths per year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The equipment is operated wirelessly from outside the room, and audibly signals its progress . It shuts off automatically when the room is cleaned.

An operator does not need to move the machine around a room, because the UV rays bounce off walls and surfaces to disinfect spots that are not in the Tru-D’s line of sight.

Launched in 2007 as the first no-touch automated disinfection system, there are now several hundred Tru-D  units in U.S. hospitals, including seven in Virginia, Dunn said.

Tru-D costs nearly $100,000 per unit. The equipment’s ability to reduce the number of health care-associated infections means hospitals have fewer returning patients, so they “achieve rapid returns on investment,” Dunn said.

Gonzalo Bearman, VCU Medical Center’s chief of infectious disease and hospital epidemiologist, said a nationwide resurgence of C. Difficile has driven a stronger focus on reducing hospital bio burdens — amounts of bacteria in treatment rooms.

He said the VCU Medical Center recently has been investing in no-touch technologies like the two Tru-D  systems. If cleaning can be done without human contact, it reduces the amount of bacteria that spreads.

The medical center deployed its two systems in January, so it does not yet have data on the equipment’s effectiveness.

St. Francis and Memorial Regional medical centers each got the system in June 2014.

The equipment does not eradicate the need for traditional cleaning and disinfecting by hospital staff — it is used as an additional safeguard against health care-associated infections, Trinh said.

Health care-associated infections are those a patient picks up while being treated in a hospital or clinic.

Virginia’s health care providers have lower infection rates than the national baseline in five of six categories of these infections, which injure 650,000 patients and lead to 75,000 deaths nationally per year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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