Sophisticated technology developed to ensure clean air for astronauts onboard space stations is now used in hospitals to capture and destroy airborne fungi, bacteria, spores and viruses.
Most of the airborne micro-organisms around us do not present grave hazards to healthy people, however they can pose serious threats to those with reduced immune resistance. The space technology 'PlasmerTM' now provides an innovative solution to guarantee clean air in several European hospitals.
PlasmerTM is a multistage system using strong electric fields and cold-plasma chambers to eliminate micro-organisms in the air. Using this space technology, the AirInSpace company with support from ESA's Technology Transfer and Promotion Office (TTP) has developed a transportable and protective unit for use in hospitals and emergency scenarios, providing an easy deployable clean room.
"With the special Plasmer technology we have managed to develop an innovative solution to provide clean air by destroying more than 99.9% of micro-organisms, responding to the special needs of immune-compromised patients in hospitals," says Laurent Fullana, General Manager of AirInSpace.
"Our system 'ImmunairTM' uses five PlasmerTM reactors to provide a clean-air 'tent', free of infective germs around a patient's bed. It is targeted primarily for immuno-haematology, oncology, reanimation and transplant hospital departments. We have produced a smaller version, 'Cool Plasmair', with no 'tent', for use across a wide range of hospital areas where cross infection is a concern."
Since early 2001 the system has been under test for a 12-month period in five hospitals. Dr Svetlana Challier, of the Necker Hospital in Paris, says, "ImmunairTM makes it possible to reduce significantly the bacteria level in the air."
Another user of the system, Professor François Demeocq, CHU/Hôtel-Dieu in Clermont-Ferrand, reports, "The biological protection with the ImmunairTM system is very satisfactory and responds well to the needs required for children with strongly reduced immune defence following chemotherapy treatments. It could also be used to provide the protection after transplants."
Demeocq adds, "For the children and their parents, this device is more convenient in everyday life and allows the emotional contact which is essential for these children who are isolated for a very long time."
The PlasmerTM technology for the biological decontamination of air onboard manned spacecraft was invented in the early 90s by a group of Russian scientists. In 1997 the Russian space station MIR was equipped with PlasmerTM reactors successfully protecting cosmonauts and electronic equipment from bacteria, viruses and fungal contamination.
In April 2001, PlasmerTM reactors were installed to clean the air from micro-organisms in the Russian segments on the International Space Station. Now the PlasmerTM space technology has moved down to Earth to protect immune-compromised patients in hospitals.