Destroying superbugs with the Antibac Pen
Written by Andrew Hill
Medical staff are constantly aware of the risk of transferring germs and bacteria whilst at work and, of course, there is a high risk of spreading bacteria in any medical environment. Although hospitals and other medical environments employ various ways to decrease the likelihood of transference, the cleaning of stationery and other items have to take a back seat to immediate patient care.
In an article in the Lancet (as far back as January 1998) there was, for the first time, recognition that pathogens could be easily transferred on doctors’ and nurses’ pens. According to the article, 36 pens from six different hospitals were tested for MRSA and resulted in 25 percent of them being infected with the virus. The contamination from the tested pens could be an indication of the staff’s hands according to the authors of the article; however, even after washing their hands, medical staff still came into contact with the virus on the pens. The authors concluded that “these results re-emphasise the importance of hand-washing….but we are not quite sure what to do about the pens”. With MRSA prevalent in hospitals across the UK, the argument that prevention is hugely more cost-effective than the cure is slowly beginning to take hold.
To expect staff, visitors and patients to change or cleanse pens every time they use them would be unreasonable, which leaves the potential transference problem still very present. Dr Stephanie Dancer recently wrote an article (again in the Lancet) which, in essence, concluded that Staphyloccus aureus and MRSA was found in variety of hospital items (including pens high on the list) and that infection was often passed inadvertently from object to patient. Even though Dr Dancer’s theme was overwhelming, logistically it is unlikely that the findings will result in any changes to pen usage.
So, can pens be antibacterial?
Generally, writing instruments which claim to be ‘antibacterial’ have been made using a covering spray or with silver ion/biocide technology in order to prevent the transferring of bacteria. It can be argued that both are seriously flawed. However, two years of Anglo-German scientific research has resulted in a new antibacterial pen from European pen manufacturer Senator. The Antibac Pen has an effective antibacterial additive built into the plastic body of the pen itself and also on the logos and messages printed on the barrel of the pen. Senator has branded it ‘The Living Pen’. Simply put, the plastic is treated in such a way that performance and the effectiveness is unchanged throughout the lifetime of the product. In that respect, this antibacterial pen is ‘one of a kind’. The pen is completely safe for all skin types and has EN71 certification in addition to being independently tested to BS EN 20645.
An interesting anecdote comes from Jan Murray, a nurse in the UK who works in a research unit. She is primarily concerned by nurses taking urine and blood samples and then writing down the results using the same gloves, thus allowing different bacteria to come into contact with the pen. She said: “It often worried me that the pen just gets put back in our pockets then used later when doing paperwork. It’s a relief to know that there is now something available like the Antibac Pen; it is certainly something I will be investing in.”
For more information, visit www.antibacpen.com. The Antibac pen can be bought in various quantities directly online from the distributor company, Antibac Limited, www.anti-bac.ltd.uk or through Senator’s distribution network.
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”