Quebec City, QC – Britain’s Health Protection Agency has recently been awarded a grant of approximately C$710,000 by the UK Department of Health to study the effectiveness of Quebec-based TSO3’s ozone sterilizer for deactivation of prions.
“The potential transmission of CJD from patient to patient via contaminated surgical instruments has been a concern worldwide for a number of years,” says Dr Neil Raven, the protection agency’s research project manager. “The data from the preliminary tests conducted by TSO3 lead us to believe that the ozone sterilizer could be a significant part of the solution to the problem of variant CJD (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease.”
“We are one of the rare foreign companies to benefit from a grant of this size. The interest Britain is showing to our technology both confirms the need for a sterilization method that will deactivate prions and ozone’s potential for being one of the solutions,” says Simon Robitaille, vice president, operations, and director of research at TSO3.
Prions are particularly tough molecules that are not deactivated by conventional washing and sterilization procedures used within hospitals. Preliminary tests conducted by TSO3 have demonstrated the potential of the ozone sterilizer to deactivate prion proteins. In a series of subsequent tests, conducted by the National Research Council in Winnipeg during 2004, TSO3 says it was able to develop protocols that are adapted to the practices within hospitals. TSO3 is also working with international regulatory agencies to ensure protocols will be recognized.
The testing of the machine will be performed at the Health Protection Agency’s research centre near Salisbury in England, where there are specialist microbiological containment facilities that enable scientists to safely work with TSE agents. The work will involve conducting a series of experiments to determine how effective the machine is at deactivating prions by using internationally recognized laboratory tests currently recognized as good models for the human disease. This protocol is necessary for TSO3 to claim that its ozone sterilizer effectively eliminates prions that are a threat to humans. Work is planned to begin later this year and is expected to take about 24 months.
The testing is part of a broader program from TSO3 studying all the parameters essential for sterilization, notably the prior cleaning and preparation of instruments, as well as the safety margins.
The time required for all the work necessary for the commercialization of a sterilizer that can deactivate prions, including the development of a prion indicator, is estimated at about three years from the start of the new series of tests.