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The Aubrey Masango Show
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Wits researcher’s technovation stops infection before it starts

28 April 2020 7:00 AM

As humanity is faced with increasing global emergencies. Now more than ever, we must all Contribute to Solutions: For Good.

As humanity is faced with increasing global emergencies, now more than ever, we must all contribute to solutions: for good, and for the good of all people. In the Wits Impacts For Good podcast series, Eusebius McKaiser engages in conversation with Wits Originators, forward-thinking researchers from Wits University, interrogating problems and seeking robust and impactful solutions, backed by leading research.

Meet Michael Lucas – the Wits PhD student whose break-through academic research in infection control could wipe the slate clean and stop nosocomial infections before it starts.

In its fifth year of development, Michael’s futuristic Antimicrobial Coating Technology is a novel solution that seeks to address the ongoing problem of infections acquired during hospital stays, a significant and persistent issue faced by hospitals across the world.

And, it was a deeply personal event that sparked this life-saving idea.

When Michael’s grandmother was admitted for open-heart surgery, his family were comforted by the reassuring updates from doctors at the hospital. For Michael, the intuitive concerns around the use of smartphones by doctors and the direct link to the transmission of infections from those devices became the basis for interesting research with impact.

This begs the question: How clean are doctors’ smartphones and what are the implications for the public health system?

According to Michael’s research, within the hospital environment, doctors, patients, and visitors frequently touch surfaces and, while there are cleaning protocols in hospitals, the chances of human error in its execution could lead to surface contamination, starting a chain of microbial transmission.

Michael’s design for depositing self-sanitising surface coatings on high contact surfaces serves to address this growing problem and, the results are promising, not only for medical facilities but, for food processing plants and public transport environments.

What if we had a cover for these devices that doctors and nurses are using within our hospitals that actively kill any bacteria on contact?

Michael Lucas, PHD student – University of the Witwatersrand

Making the impossible, realistically possible – For Good.

The new technology was validated through extensive laboratory tests as well as preliminary pilot studies. These tests were conducted under laboratory conditions against a variety of dangerous pathogens that are found in hospital high contact surfaces including a multi-drug resistant Staph strain.

As a result, the potential of these coatings for the mitigation of surface contact transmission of infections was confirmed, repeatedly achieving complete microbial elimination within a 15-minute contact period. The next steps include verifying the safety of the coatings for the intended application and to assess the coatings' efficacy in real-world hospital high contact surface environments.

“This is the start of taking the technology to market,” he concluded with a resolute focus to turn his technology into a viable start-up business.

28 April 2020 7:00 AM

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