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From Steam to Disinfection

Advanced Vapor Technologies (Everett, Washington) sells a complete line of high-end residential and commercial steam vapor systems.  The company, best known for it's Ladybug line of steamers, is environmentally conscious, innovative, and visionary with regard to surface disinfection. 

Founder Rick Hoverson took Advanced Vapor Technologies from a small operation in the early 1990s to a leadership position in today's crowded steam vapor system market.  In that time, Advanced Vapor Technologies set the standard for reliable, high-performance steam-producing devices.

Rick is known for his generosity, fairness, and "problems are for solving" attitude.  He perceived a number of drawbacks to chemical disinfection approaches and at the same time saw unique benefits of steam vapor as an approach to surface disinfection, so he led the company headfirst into a series of studies to evaluate the dynamics of steam disinfection of surfaces.  This was the first scientifically rigorous research to be done on steam vapor systems for surface disinfection.

From the outset, the company decided to use only the most reputable microbiological testing facilities.

In late 2004, rangefinding studies were conducted at Nelson Labs in Salt Lake City, Utah. Various attachments to the device were tested at contact times ranging from 7-30 seconds, across a diverse group of 10 microorganisms.  In these studies, 5-7 log reductions were observed, with total kill (disinfection) of microorganisms observed in most instances.

In 2006, interested in evaluating virucidal activity, Advanced Vapor Technologies contracted studies at Microbiotest against feline calicivirus (a norovirus surrogate), avian influenza virus, and canine parvovirus at contact times ranging from 7 to 10 seconds.  These studies also demonstrated excellent virucidal efficacy.

At the height of the company's interest in their unique approach to surface disinfection in 2007, Advanced Vapor Technologies was introduced to a startup laboratory in Northern California called Antimicrobial Test Laboratories. 

The timing couldn't have been better.  Rick informed this new lab of the encouraging scientific findings to date.  Dr. Benjamin Tanner, principal of Antimicrobial Test Laboratories, designed and proposed a series of pioneering studies to expand the body of research.

Data from Nelson Labs and Microbiotest indicated that the Advanced Vapor Technologies MondoVap system disinfected within a very brief period.  To determine time-to-sanitization and time-to-disinfection, Antimicrobial Test Labs conducted a series of studies at ultra-brief contact times, ranging from 1/2 second to 5 seconds. 

To facilitate accurate research at such brief contact periods, Antimicrobial Test Laboratories partnered with a local metalworking company to machine custom test-surface holders that were stable when treated with the device, but easily manipulated using laboratory instruments.

In keeping with Antimicrobial Test Labs culture of robust study design, initial microorganism populations were great, at approximately 10^6 cfu/test surface.  In addition, test surfaces chosen for the study were "worst case" in that they had considerable surface texture.

The studies showed that in general the device sanitized (99.9% reduction) within just 2 seconds and disinfected surfaces within 3-5 seconds.  This was a true "first" with regard to surface disinfection:  Contact times as brief as 2-3 seconds to achieve surface sanitization and disinfection.  These contact times have yet to be rivaled by chemical disinfectants.  Accordingly, Dr. Tanner worked with Advanced Vapor Technologies to write up and eventually publish the research in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Infection Control (a list of laboratory-related publications, including the AJIC article, can be found here).

A series of other studies were conducted at Antimicrobial Test Labs, all of which were designed to be scientifically robust, informative, and valuable to the client.  For example, studies were designed to evaluate practical questions such as whether five 1-second treatments were as effective as one 5-second treatment.  Tests were also conducted to evaluate aerosolization of surface microorganisms resulting from use of the device and the potential for cross-contamination of surfaces.  All studies produced favorable and marketable results, testament to the robustness of the process with regard to surface disinfection.

In 2007, Antimicrobial Test Labs moved to the Austin, Texas area but that did not stop the line of research into steam disinfection.  An "in-hospital" effectiveness study was designed with Dr. Charles Gerba (University of Arizona) and eventually published in AJIC (laboratory publication link).  Later, effectiveness of the device against the tough endospores of Clostridium difficile was measured. 

Antimicrobial Test Labs and Advanced Vapor Technologies worked seamlessly together to evaluate the device.  In the process, the science of steam disinfection of surfaces was furthered considerably.  Since then, Advanced Vapor Technologies has continued to test and learn about the device, most recently working with the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI), Lowell University, Massachusetts, to evaluate efficacy of the device on textiles such as hospital curtains.

As a result of the large body of research conducted by Antimicrobial Test Labs, other labs, and Universities, Advanced Vapor Technologies devices now enjoy wide usage in a number of prominent hospitals, where environmental services personnel reliably disinfect surface after surface, without many of the drawbacks associated with ordinary chemical disinfectants. 

"We are very pleased with Antimicrobial Test Laboratories (ATL).  Innovative systems such as ours require an equally innovative service provider. ATL has a supportive staff, willing to go the extra mile.  Reliability of their results are beyond reproach and reproducible within the GLP framework.  Antimicrobial Test Labs has been a pleasure to work with, regardless of the size or scope of the project."   - Rick Hoverson, Advanced Vapor Technologies