Southern Alberta researcher working to improve pathogen cleaning process

Click to play video: 'Southern Alberta researcher working to improve pathogen cleaning process' Southern Alberta researcher working to improve pathogen cleaning process
Have you ever wondered how well you really clean? A University of Lethbridge graduate student is hoping to answer that question. As Erik Bay reports, the answer is a little closer, thanks to GreenSTEM funding – May 11, 2021

Sanitizing surfaces is now routine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but are you getting every microbe?

It’s a question Dustin Smith hopes to answer.

As part of a University of Lethbridge team, Smith studied the cleaning practices of Lethbridge EMS and identified the microbes left behind.

Read more: Experts find more evidence COVID-19 is airborne, that we need to rethink indoor spaces

“We would take samples before and after cleaning of the surfaces at various different stages between cleaning to evaluate their cleaning practices,” Smith said.

The analysis is meant to quickly detect pathogens and limit the spread.

Lethbridge EMS resource officer Ward Eggli said the research allowed EMS to overhaul its cleaning process.

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Along with wipedowns, they use disinfecting gas to sanitize ambulances.

Read more: mRNA vaccine technology could be used to protect against other deadly diseases: experts

“I think we always knew that we might have some nasty pathogens that we’d have to deal with,” Eggli said.

Smith is now expanding his research with his company dsBioscience Inc.

Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden, who oversaw the study and is now an advisor with Smith’s company, said the research is important for EMS during the pandemic.

“The students started working with EMS on that and developed the design constraints that are necessary for the EMS workers to actually make sure the cleaning processes are good,” Wieden said.

“It provides a safe environment for the patients they’re transporting and for them and their families at home.”

Smith hopes to expand his research to first responders outside of Lethbridge and modify the technology for retail.

“There’s a lot of different applications this could be used for — anything that you could think of in terms of if a customer needs to know if there is a microbe present or not,” Smith said.

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In the long term, Smith sees the possibility of expanding the technology for environmental uses, like tailing ponds in the Alberta oil sands.

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