Image copyright Reuters Image caption The devices could stop other patients being infected, say researchers
Air filters used in hospitals could protect patients from airborne infections such as tuberculosis, say researchers.
A study found that a device could reduce the chances of infection by 50% using less than 2% of the disposable cartridges used.
Dr Ali Semnani and colleagues at Tübingen University said the device reduced TB strains by nearly a third.
Researchers say that use of a filter filter could allow patients to leave hospital without caring for disease.
The research, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, involved screenings for tuberculosis over six years in 15 hospitals in Turkey.
More than 4,000 patients were tested for drug-resistant TB and TB-related respiratory and circulatory problems.
Over half the patients had been discharged without any protection against airborne TB infection.
Dr Semnani and colleagues developed a filter that reduced the odds of infection by 52%, excluding the use of antibiotics.
Tests revealed that 93.7% of contaminated circulating TB bacteria were either wiped out or destroyed by the device.
They also found it blocked at least 2.9% of samples infected with multi-drug resistant TB strains, less than half the 6.7% that have been found to be resistant in trials.
The device, which would be placed in patient rooms, could also be used to protect breast, kidney and lung patients from infection with bacteria such as MRSA and C.difficile, they say.
The study says filtering devices could reduce infection of patients by 50%, a percentage considerably higher than current post-treatment cleanliness rules.
The devices would also have benefits beyond those of TB infection, the researchers say.
“We believe that the filter could potentially be used to reduce influenza infection rates by up to 40-70%, or clean wounds by up to 80-100%,” they write.
Dr Semnani told BBC News: “The filters can prevent viruses from coming into a patient’s body and this reduces the likelihood of infecting the patient with viruses that have a potentially harmful effect.”
He said that many other infections could also be avoided if people used the filters properly.
“For example, if you have a patient who has small cuts on her hands then the wound has pockets of bacteria that could potentially take hold.”
Airbaths at Tübingen University had the device installed, but not screened patients, he said.
Their findings remain subject to confirmation through future research.
They said it could also be extended to use in Europe and elsewhere.
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