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History of the XJ-2 HEPA Air Cleaner

How a unit originally intended to control spread of an ancient infection may now be used to combat the novel COVID-19 infection pandemic.

XJ-2 AIIR air cleaner
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Air Quality Engineering has received urgent calls from hospitals all around the country for our medical-grade XJ-2 HEPA Air Cleaner. This system was developed to create negative pressure isolation rooms for the rising number of tuberculosis (TB) patients in the late ’80s and early ’90s. As public health measures improved the TB problem, demand for this equipment diminished – until now. Read on to learn more about the inception and history of the XJ-2 HEPA Air Cleaner.

Demand for Negative Pressure Isolation Rooms: Emergence of Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis has been around for centuries, and that it’s transmitted via airborne pathways was demonstrated by the early 1900s. Development of antibiotics in the 1950s led to a 30-year decrease in incidence, but complex social and scientific factors led to an 18 percent increase from around 1985 to 1995. More alarming was the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) infections.

MDR-TB infections are resistant to primary TB drugs. Caring for infected patients and minimizing the risk of transmission required placement in a negative pressure isolation room, now known as an airborne infection isolation room (AIIR). Negative pressure in the room means air will flow in but not out. AIIRs also require direct exhaust of air from inside the room through a HEPA filter to remove the infectious particles.

A Strategic Solution: Inception and Development of the XJ-2 HEPA Air Cleaner

A practicing physician at the time, Dr. Thomas Oas, M.D., M.P.H, studied the situation. He became certified in public health and preventive medicine and wrote his master’s project on environmental controls for prevention of TB.

Dr. Oas collaborated with his wife, Heidi Oas, then president and current CEO of AQE, to develop an air handling unit that easily and efficiently creates negative pressure for TB isolation rooms: the XJ-2. Hospitals around the nation turned to AQE at the time for this versatile, highly effective, HEPA-filtered air purification system.

In the ensuing years, the need for such equipment decreased significantly, leading nearly all original manufacturers to drop them from production. However, we kept the XJ-2 hospital grade unit in our system for applications such as medical facilities, extended and senior care facilities, and institutional use, as well as preparation for another public health concern like the emergence of MDR-TB.

Today, as we face the COVID-19 pandemic and the concern for overwhelmed hospital resources, that decision has proven to be a fortunate one. The XJ-2 quickly and easily converts ordinary patient care rooms into AIIRs and complies with the “Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings” published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At AQE, we provide innovative, effective air quality solutions with a customer-focused approach. Our team members have risen to the challenge to maintain that mission during these difficult times, and we’ll continue that commitment long into the brighter times ahead.

Contact us to learn more.