The Blue Dye Innovation that Makes Disinfecting Health Facilities More Effective and More Visible

This post is part of a series authored by the BASICS (Bold Action to Stop Infections in Clinical Settings) team. BASICS is a new initiative that will transform healthcare and reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by at least 50%.

Written by Jason Kang, Co-founder and CEO, Kinnos

In 2014, I co-founded Kinnos in response to the West Africa Ebola crisis. At the time, one of the biggest problems contributing to high rates of infection was ineffective surface decontamination caused by human error and gaps in training.

Disinfectants like bleach are transparent, making it easy to miss spots; hydrophobic, making it bead up and roll off the surfaces it’s meant to disinfect; and only effective if used for a specific contact time, meaning healthcare workers must ideally wait for a certain period for pathogens to be inactivated. These problems are universal to disinfection in facilities outside the scope of epidemic outbreaks.

Highlight, our patented additive, colorizes the disinfectant so that users can easily see where it has been applied. Highlight modifies the liquid properties to eliminate droplet formation and improve adherence to surfaces. The color fades as the contact time needed for the disinfectant to work passes, indicating when decontamination is done.

To put this into context, our time at the Ebola Treatment Unit in Ganta, Liberia, was particularly memorable – I remember the intense heat and how incredible it was that staff were wearing layers of stuffy, personal protective equipment for 4 to 6 hours at a time. However, this also meant that they were only too eager to remove their protective gowns and coveralls, often not waiting the requisite contact time for the disinfectant sprayed on their protective garments to work.

Combined with the inherent difficulties of achieving full coverage with bleach, we quickly understood why health staff were up to 32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola than the average person.

When healthcare workers started telling us that Highlight was making them feel more confident in their own safety and easing their stress in such high-risk situations, we realized that our technology was tapping into an invaluable resource: peace of mind. Interacting with the healthcare workers who had volunteered to put themselves directly in danger to help others was humbling and inspiring, and doing our part to make their lives even a little bit better was incredibly motivating.

The breakthrough that Highlight represents – the ability to overcome training and language barriers to empower health workers and those who clean facilities with a feeling of confidence through disinfection they can see – can have a profound impact in reducing healthcare-associated infections globally as part of the BASICS solution. In our mission to prevent infections and improve patient safety, we have not forgotten about the people who are tasked with the important step of disinfection.

In addition to our humanitarian focus in low- and middle-income countries, Kinnos is working to radically reduce healthcare-associated infections and the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance within the U.S. healthcare system.

We’ve partnered with leading medical organizations to pilot our technology in hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and other facilities. It’s a sober reminder that infections affect society at large and are an urgent global problem that require a concerted effort to solve.

The fact that someone today can receive a life-threatening infection from a place where they expect medical care and treatment is unacceptable, and we are motivated to make this a problem of the past.

Historically, so many resources have been devoted to diagnosis and treatment, even though it’s recognized that prevention is key to sustainable healthcare. We always knew that surface disinfection was only one key part of the larger infection prevention ecosystem, so having the opportunity to enact a system-wide program with the rest of the BASICS team is extremely exciting to me.

The world has been waiting too long for an initiative like BASICS to set the standard of infection prevention.