Partnership Medical Ltd (PML), based in Stoke-on-Trent, are specialists in supplying cleaning equipment and consumables for flexible endoscopes with over 20 years of distributor experience.
Endoscopes are medical devices which enable doctors to look inside the human body to diagnose and treat diseases. They are long, thin tubes with a light and camera at one end. Conventionally, after use, endoscopes are cleaned with long thin brushes. Cleaning is vital as it is necessary to remove any bacteria on the endoscope surfaces, which if left behind could infect the next patient. However, brushes are not always very effective at removing all of the bacteria in the endoscope.
The number of infections caused by contaminated endoscopes appears to be on the rise, and in some instances, these infections have led to deaths. As a result, PML recognised a need to modify the current cleaning and disinfecting process of endoscopes to significantly reduce the chances of a patient acquiring endoscopy-related infections.
Bringing together their expertise in material chemistry, microbiology and infectious diseases, Aston University and PML joined forces to develop an automated cleaning device and new cleaning solution that allow endoscopes to be cleaned directly from the clinic.
The Aston University team who worked on this KTP included Dr Andy Sutherland, Reader in Organic/Polymer Chemistry and a member of the Aston Institute of Materials Research with expertise in mesocrystal formation and singlet-oxygen generation. He trained as a synthetic organic chemist and has authored 51 papers and patents.
Dr Sutherland worked alongside Dr Tony Worthington, a member of the Cell and Tissue Biomedical Research Group within the College of Health and Life Sciences. He specialises in clinical microbiology and infectious diseases and has published extensively in these areas and has expertise in biofilms and bacteria handling.
Completing the team was Dr Thien Duong, who performed the role of associate, bringing proven expertise in synthetic chemistry.
Through their automated cleaning system, Aston University and PML achieved industry-leading levels of disinfection, reducing risks of contamination to patients and lowering rates of mortality.
The automated prototype and new cleaning materials developed in the KTP produced astonishing results in clinical trials, with a simple five-minute treatment offering deep cleaning levels 1,000 times better than anticipated, providing hygiene levels far superior to those currently possible using conventional manual procedures.
A patent to protect both the cleaning solution and the automated endoscope cleaning machine was filed by Aston University and PML in 2021, enabling them to pioneer and dominate the market. As a result of their patented position and the encouraging clinical testing results, the company expects good future sales of the new system, with forecasts indicating an increase in UK-based sales of approximately £200,000 over the next three years.
In this project, we needed to generate reactive oxygen species using reagents and conditions that could be used on sensitive medical equipment and would enable uptake of the cleaning process in a clinical environment by non-chemists. Fortunately, we were able to develop a safe multicomponent mixture that proved to be highly effective both in the lab and now in the clinic as evidenced by our early successful clinical trials data”. Dr Sutherland, Reader in Organic/Polymer Chemistry, Aston University.
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