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*** EMBARGOED TO FRIDAY 1 JULY 2005, 00.01 Hrs ***


Research to be announced at AMBEX proves that a new decontamination process can deliver sterile ambulance interiors using technology already standard in the pharmaceutical, food production and laboratory research sectors, where sterility is mandatory.

New research launched today reveals that ambulances could be transferring much more than just patients - reinforcing the need for urgent improvements to current NHS practices for tackling MRSA and other healthcare related infections.

Nationwide research results to be unveiled today at AMBEX [2], the Ambulance Services Association’s annual conference in Harrogate, will show that traditional cleaning and disinfection practices have little effect in removing bacterial contamination in ambulances, leaving crews and patients potentially at risk from deadly superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and potentially transporting infection into hospitals.

The research trials involved emergency vehicles from half of the ambulance trusts in the UK, who worked in collaboration with ambulance equipment supplier FERNO UK Limited and industrial and healthcare decontamination specialists STERIS Limited.

Each of the ambulance research trials involved ambulances which had just come off duty. Swab testing found that every vehicle was contaminated with a variety of pathogens, including bacteria and fungi. After this swabbing, the trials evaluated current cleaning practices and then compared them to the STERIS VHP® decontamination process. [5]

The VHP research work was undertaken with full co-operation from NHS bodies after the Department of Health’s Rapid Review Panel gave regulatory approval for ‘in-use’ trials in February 2005. [6]

Each vehicle was tested for contamination after cleaning using the current cleaning method of wiping down the interior with liquid disinfectants. Swabbing results after traditional wipe down cleaning indicated that the current disinfection practices had little effect in removing bacterial contamination from the vehicle.

The vehicles were then decontaminated using STERIS’s VHP decontamination technology. Test results proved that no bacterial surface contaminants remained following the STERIS VHP decontamination process and all equipment contained within the vehicles remained fully functional.

Richard Diment, Chief Executive of Ambulance Service Association, commented: “Reducing Healthcare Acquired Infections is a priority for all parts of the NHS including ambulance services. The trials show the importance of infection control in ambulances and that VHP is a highly effective product for decontamination. The ASA will continue to work with our partners, including STERIS, to ensure that ambulances are a safe environment for all patients and staff.”

Dr Gerald McDonnell, Senior Technical Director for STERIS Limited in Basingstoke, commented: “Our research shows that ambulances can be heavily contaminated and the cleaning methodologies available today seem to have little to no impact on reducing the levels of microorganisms, including bacteria, in front-line ambulances. STERIS’ VHP technology provides a safe and thorough decontamination solution for use in ambulances and other vehicles, thus reducing the healthcare risks to patients and workers who could be exposed to infectious agents such as MRSA, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Clostridium difficle. Our VHP technology, which is unique to STERIS, has also been successfully used to decontaminate even the toughest spore forming bacteria like Bacillus anthracis (the cause of anthrax) and other pathogens, providing a strong defence against terrorist activity and civil emergencies. The process can be performed quickly, thus ensuring the continuity of ambulance operations.”

“Other industries requiring the highest levels of contamination control have replaced or enhanced their standards by moving from the more traditional use of wipe down cleaning protocols relying on liquid detergents and disinfectants to the increased use of the STERIS VHP process. STERIS is pleased to now offer this technology to the UK health care community,” said Dr. McDonnell speaking at AMBEX.

Peter Howard-Jones, Chairman of UV Modular, an ambulance manufacturer, said: “As a manufacturer of front line ambulance vehicles we recognise that the threat of contamination from superbugs such as MRSA is a major problem. We believe that the STERIS VHP decontamination system offers a practical solution by ensuring that potential bugs are fully eradicated from ambulances. We have undertaken vehicle modification to ensure that in future our vehicles can use the VHP decontamination system as standard, offering the first ever integrated system for validated infection control within ambulances. This first of its kind vehicle will be on display at AMEBX”



1. For further information please contact either Nick Sutcliffe (+44 7730 898 165) or Jonathan Simpson (+44 7968 537 320).

2. AMBEX 2005 will take place between Thursday 30 June and Saturday 2 July 2005 at the Harrogate International Conference Centre. STERIS is the primary sponsor of this year’s AMBEX conference.

3. STERIS will be presenting the ambulance trust research on Friday 1 July at 11 am, in the Press Room of Hall A of the Harrogate International Conference Centre. Representatives of NHS Ambulance Trusts will attend the briefing.

4. In addition to the presentation of the research evidence, simulated ambulance decontamination trials will be held throughout AMBEX in the STERIS theatre to demonstrate how their VHP technology can effectively decontaminate an ambulance.

5. The VHP decontamination technology uses a low temperature, dry gaseous process that has proven to be highly effective against pathogenic organisms and bacterial spores. The process is easy to perform and the fast cycle time helps emergency service providers ensure the continuity of operations.

6. The Rapid Review Panel announced on 4 February 2005 that STERIS’ VHP had received a Recommendation 2 – that further ‘in use’ trials for the technology should take place. The research published at AMBEX is part of this process.

7. STERIS is committed to innovative infection prevention, decontamination and health science technologies, products and services. Additional information about STERIS can be found on the Company's Website at

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of APCO UK in the following categories: Health, Medical & Pharmaceutical, for more information visit