Covid-19: Nantes University Hospital, Tronico and e-Cobot join forces to disinfect ambient air

Actor of the industry of the future, called as a handler, logistician and even actor in Cédric Klapisch’s latest film (Deux moi), the cobot-collaborative robot- Husky-UV from the Nantes start-up e-Cobot, equipped by Tronico , is about to put on the costume of cleaning agent at the Nantes University Hospital. Objective: to eradicate traces of Sars-CoV-2 and more generally viruses, fungi, bacteria and other germs present in the ambient air and on surfaces. Patient rooms, hallways, treatment rooms … will be combed through.

“Last spring, the High Council for Public Health issued an opinion on the benefits of UV-C and ozone for environmental disinfection. In view of the studies and the available bibliography, we have shown, and we know, that it is effective. What we lack are data in a real clinical situation to specify the means of execution. This is what we want to do in Nantes ”, explains Didier Lepelletier, co-chairman of the permanent Covid-19 working group at the High Council for Public Health, and head of the hospital bacteriology-hygiene service at the Nantes University Hospital Center, which is piloting the “Sauv-D” collaborative project, set up as part of the “collaborative R&D” call for projects launched two years ago by the Pays de la Loire region to stimulate cooperation between companies, public research laboratories and training establishments. Here, in a logic of public-private partnership, the Nantes University Hospital is associated with the Vendée Tronico, specialist in industrial electronics and with e-Cobot, specializing in the manufacture and integration of cobotic solutions combining artificial intelligence .

Three solutions to choose from

“To control an infection in a hospital, there are three levels”, recalls Didier Lepelletier, “Elbow grease and the use of chemical detergents, but in certain epidemics, more resistant germs can remain in the environment. If we want to be sure of the result, we must resort to air disinfection with hydrogen peroxide -NDLR: hydrogen peroxide-, but this requires cutting the ventilation, that there is nobody in the chamber, prepare the room, diffuse for two hours and wait another three hours for the product to evaporate. In short, it mobilizes a room for eight hours. The advantage with UV-C is that in 10 minutes you have disinfected the space. It works, it’s faster and more economical than current alternatives. ” This, moreover, has just been demonstrated by the tests carried out last March in the thoracic endoscopy department of the Nord Laennec Hospital, in Nantes, where the 50 m² of the endoscopy room, equipped with patches, swept by ultraviolet rays was disinfected from floor to ceiling in six minutes. Husky-UV has thus demonstrated its ability to deliver effective doses of UV-C to destroy microorganisms and to move on the different types of flooring in the establishment (tiles, PVC). A first step.

UV-C to be handled with care

“The Sars CoV-2 virus is a very fragile virus, which can be destroyed with few joules and in a short time. Its sensitivity to climate might explain why it is less present in the southern hemisphere. The problem, notes Didier Lepelletier, is that UV-C, not present in the atmosphere but that we know how to reproduce, does not decontaminate an object hidden behind a screen and there are many constraints in a technical room. But, above all, these rays are extremely toxic to the skin and the ocular mucous membranes. One of the challenges is therefore the robot’s ability to detect a human presence and to stop automatically ”, he said. It will therefore be necessary to decide who cleans, in what outfits, how, when and to protocol the operation of the robot. This is the whole issue of the “Sauv-D” project, suspended at the decision of the regional council, which must decide at its next standing committee, on May 21, whether it finances this project of a million, planned to last two years. Is it far and long? “This is the time required for clinical studies,” said Didier Lepelletier. We will have to recruit a project pilot, a laboratory technician, call on outside laboratories, present the project to department heads, determine in which spaces we will use the robot, define the UV doses to be used, the speed robot, rewrite a detailed and complete protocol, analyze and interpret the results, draw conclusions … All this is two years ”, he said.

Non-existent repositories

For e-Cobot and Tronico, who have already put the machine in the catalog of their marketing company Tame Care, like many other manufacturers who sell UV-C solutions, the goal is also to create and write a standard on the performance, mode of use and safety of this innovation. To reassure. “Today, no repository and no normative document exists”, notes Christophe Scheid, director of development and partnerships for E-cobots. “Unlike hospitals or foreign companies that will highlight the results obtained in their establishments, in France, we are still very attached to the standards and certifications of devices …. These are different cultures. The United States and Great Britain are aware that this can be a means of reducing nosocomial diseases. In France, it is a taboo subject ”, adds Patrick Collet, CEO of Tronico. In fact, solicited by large cleaning groups, Tame Care, according to him, would not have signed any order form for a material promised to disinfect 450 m² in one hour. The price ? 79,500 euros, “But it is available for hire or with formulas for use”, specifies Christophe Sheid. ” We wait !”, he admits, after having conducted tests at the Puy du Fou or at the Nantes exhibition center. “As of now, talks are taking place with international companies”, says Patrick Collet.

“It’s an industrial project that will be scientifically validated,” says Didier Lepelletier. Set a standard? that may be an objective, but viruses impose much more complex sampling constraints than fungi or germs, and UV-C, like UV-A, does not dispense with a first step … with a detergent product ‘, warns the specialist in bacteriology and hospital hygiene.

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