NHS designs bug-fighting keyboard

A London hospital has come up with a keyboard that could help in the fight against the MRSA superbug
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Researchers at a London teaching hospital have come up with a "clean" keyboard that could help in the fight against hospital bugs, including the one responsible for the deaths of hundreds of patients.

University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust is ready to begin installing the new keyboard on hospital wards. It is completely flat and easy to clean and UCLH believes it can cut the infections spread by dirty keyboards. According to UCLH, research suggests the new keyboard could cut cases of the killer MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) bug by up to 10 percent.

The keyboards are much smoother than conventional ones and are equipped with timing devices to warn nursing staff when they need cleaning. To fight bugs the keyboards need to be cleaned properly using alcohol wipes. Microbiologists at UCLH found that keyboards need to be cleaned at least every 12 hours if they are to remain clean enough for use in a hospital. The bacterial levels on the new keyboards fall by 70 per cent if they are cleaned every 12 hours, UCHL said.

The research also showed that keyboard covers are a haven for bugs. The are rarely cleaned so medical staff spread infections by moving between keyboards without cleaning their hands.

The keyboard was developed by UCLH consultant microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson and clinical scientist Dr Paul Ostro "who dreamt-up the idea to coincide with the increasing computerisation of the NHS". 

"Doctors and nurses were going from patient to the keyboard without washing their hands," said Dr Wilson. "That's quite understandable because you would wash your hands between patients but not between a patient and a keyboard. As we are going to be increasingly using computers we thought we would have to come up with a model that was very easy to clean to try to break the cycle of infection."

UCLH's own research points to the benefits of the new keyboard. According to Dr Wilson, "Compliance with twice-daily cleaning went up from 10-20 percent with the keyboard covers, to 87 percent with the new model."

The UCLH hospital board approved the purchase of 2,000 of the new keyboards in October. The keyboard was developed by Esterline Advanced Input Systems for the Trust.


The bug-fighting keyboard

By being completely flat, the keyboard doesn't allow bacteria to multiply in small crevices


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