Dr. Chetan Jinadatha, a lead researcher with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, was awarded two grants valued at $3.2 million for his work in using self-sanitizing copper surface to reduce hospital-acquired infections and the implementation of VA patented technology to track disinfection of medical equipment.

On Friday, Jinadatha and other VA officials discussed the research and equipment now being used at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center.

Infectious disease is an important topic of hospitals across the globe; people come to hospitals to get well, not to get sicker, said Dr. Solomon Williams, acting chief of staff.

“This focused and important work is critical to what we do at this hospital,” he said.

David Dostal, acting associate chief of staff for research at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, has been aware of Jinadatha’s research from its beginning.

“You see the protocols, but you never know where it’s going to lead,” Dostal said.

Copper is an amazing compound that dates back to the Egyptian and Babylonian ages, he said. Soldiers rubbed bronze filings into their wounds because they knew it prevented infections.

“In Paris, the copper workers were protected against cholera and the bubonic plague,” he said. “It’s great to see this metal deployed in a very practical way.”

The $2.2 million grant from Health and Human Services is funding “A Trial to Explore the Benefits of Antimicrobial Self-Sanitizing Surfaces on Bio-Burden Levels and Healthcare-Acquired Infections.”

The $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health is funding a study on “Improving Patient Outcomes through Tracking and Displaying the Disinfection Status of Equipment and Area.”

It’s not easy getting grants for this type of work, said Jinadatha, chief of the infectious diseases section at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System.

There are no sterilized clean rooms where many research studies take place. This research is happening in the busy units of the Temple VA, the hospital rooms of patients, which their nurses, doctors, nursing assistants and other providers are in and out of all day long.

Jinadatha’s research requires the assistances of many other individuals.

“I couldn’t do this alone,” he said.

His passion, Jinadatha said, comes from the patients he is serving: veterans.

The research is evaluating the potential benefit of installation of copper-impregnated hard surface material with antibacterial properties to combat and reduce hospital-acquired infections, such as MSRA and C.diff.

Health care costs in this country are high and getting higher, and one way to alleviate some of the increases is reducing these infections, he said.

The copper is imbedded within a resin material that can be molded to fit bed railings and is used for bathroom counters and the bed trays.

The technology used to track the cleaning of medical cart work stations and other equipment takes the guess work out of determining when equipment was last cleaned. Cleaning protocols work really well at patient discharge, but it’s what they do in between that needed assistance, Jinadatha said.

Current data collected has shown a reduction in infections in the areas of the hospital where the copper infused surfacing is located and the disinfection technology is in use, but Jinadatha is hesitant to provide numbers, which are in a medical journal entry that is awaiting peer review.

The research team is not stopping at these projects. There are plans for other studies that include tracking down infection sources.