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80 air filters reduce Covid-19 transmission risk at Cambridge University Hospitals





Eighty air filter machines to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection for patients and staff have been installed across Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) following pioneering research by Addenbrooke’s.

An air filter machine and Dr Vilas Navapurkar, who conceived and led the study. Picture: CUH
An air filter machine and Dr Vilas Navapurkar, who conceived and led the study. Picture: CUH

A study at the hospital in January 2021, at the height of the second wave, found the filters remove almost all traces of airborne Covid virus and other viruses, bacteria and fungi that are also known to cause infection.

CUH engineer Andrew Turner, who was part of the research team, said: “For the initial study we used two air filter machines, but the results were so dramatic it made sense to get many more and use them across the trust to help reduce outbreaks of infection. Now we have a total of 80 machines, most of them bought by the trust but many also donated by manufacturers.”

A number of units are now in place in clinics where airborne infection is a particular risk, including endoscopy, maxillofacial and lung function. But the majority are designated to areas by the infection control team and moved as needed, including to general wards converted to treat patients with Covid and the emergency department.

Each machine has cost the trust around £5,000 alongside maintenance costs.

Dr Vilas Navapurkar, consultant in intensive care medicine at CUH, who led the study, said: “Effective PPE has made a huge difference, but anything we can do that could reduce the risk further is important.

“Because of the numbers of patients being admitted with Covid, hospitals have had to use wards not designed for managing respiratory infections. Our study showed that portable air filtration devices, which are relatively inexpensive, remove airborne SARS-CoV-2 and other micro organisms that cause infection which may make these wards safer.”

An intensive care Covid ward at CUH during the height of the pandemic second wave, January 2021. Picture: CUH
An intensive care Covid ward at CUH during the height of the pandemic second wave, January 2021. Picture: CUH

The research was supported by Wellcome, the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.

A further study - the Addenbrooke’s Air Disinfection Study (AAirDS) - is under way to assess how effective air cleaning is at reducing infection risk and will be co-led by Dr Matthew Butler and Dr Victoria Keevil.

CUH consultant Dr Butler said: “This next study is the first of its kind in the world to combine genomics, electronic health data, patient outcomes, microbiological air sampling and indoor air quality.

“We know now that air filter machines can reduce the amount of infectious particles in the air. What we don’t know is how much that reduction translates into our risk of getting sick. For instance how much of any pathogen needs to be inhaled or be exposed to in order to infect us?

“AAirDS aims to begin to answer these questions and is the first study of its kind in the world to combine genomics, electronic health data, patient outcomes, microbiological air sampling and indoor air quality sensing to quantify the effect of air filters in a hospital setting.”

The study will deploy air filter machines for a year on two wards caring for older people at Addenbrooke’s.

This will provide data on how effective air cleaning might be at preventing outbreaks with SARS-CoV2, the virus causing Covid, but also other respiratory viruses, MRSA, clostridioides difficile (C diff) and norovirus.

AAirDS is funded by the UK Health Security Agency.

Read more

Air filters on Addenbrooke’s wards removed nearly all traces of airborne Covid-19 virus, Cambridge University Hospitals study shows



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