(KUTV) Hospital-acquired catheter infections are an increasing problem nationwide, but some University of Utah students say they have an answer to kill bacteria and save lives.
A team of students at the U, including two attending medical school, have developed a bacteria-killing catheter.
When they asked local medical professionals the biggest problem in hospitals currently, the number 1 answer came back: catheter infections.
Nate Rhodes and four other students, all majoring in bioengineering and medicine, set out searching for a solution.
"We looked at visible light as a way to kill bacteria," Rhodes, who recently graduated, explained. "They've used it in other applications, but no-one thought to use it for this."
The device, which uses visible light to stop the bacteria from being able to replicate and spread infection, recently won first place and $75,000 at the International Business Model Competition at Brigham Young University.
Teams from more than 200 schools competed, but this University of Utah group walked away with one of the top prizes.
And it's proven to this bright group of students, this device is needed at hospitals nationwide and can save lives.
"100,000 people died every year from these catheter infections," Rhodes says.
University of Utah surgeon Dr. John Langell, who mentored the team, says hospital-acquired infections are a big problem.
"We know that once you hit 3 days with a catheter in, your chances of having a bacterial infection of the bladder go up markedly," Dr. Langell explained.
While physicians try to keep that from happening, some patients need catheters for a prolonged period of time.
"So many infections have been driving the cost of health care up in the United States," Dr. Langell said. "(It's) actually adding hundreds of millions of dollars each year to the health care sector."
And now, insurance companies are starting to refuse to cover the expenses for hospital-acquired infections; which means the bill, ends up as a hospital expense.
The University of Utah team says they're hoping to see their device in hospitals in the next few years.
Rhodes says the next step is FDA approval.
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)
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