Aussie dad's quest to prevent hospital-acquired infections: 'Doing it for Marcus'

Photo: Tim Smith and wife with son Marcus who passed away when he was 12-years-old.
Photo: Tim Smith and wife with son Marcus who passed away when he was 12-years-old. Photo: Supplied

Tim Smith describes his son, Marcus, as a beautiful child. 

Sadly, Marcus had a significant number of challenges over his 12 short years due to a rare chromosome deletion that left him profoundly disabled

He passed away in 2019.

"He was the most resilient and lovable child," Tim tells Essential Baby. "He had the most infectious laugh and could light up a room despite his daily challenges."

Photo: Marcus had a rare chromosomal deletion and was frequently in hospital
Photo: Marcus had a rare chromosomal deletion and was frequently in hospital Photo: Supplied

As a result of his illness, the Smith family were no strangers to the Emergency Department and had 'frequent flyer status' with a number of hospitals. 

According to Tim, the frequency of visits also meant that ultimately, Marcus was at increased risk of getting a hospital-acquired infection (HAI).

"In one instance, he managed to catch a staph infection from cotton buds that were placed on a tray table and then used by the doctor in his ears," the Sydney-based dad explains. 

"It took Marcus months to get over the infection and required multiple rounds of antibiotics to recover. And it's not an uncommon situation."

This experience instigated Tim's quest to find a long-term solution to prevent viruses, bacteria, and germs in general from living on surfaces.

During his research, Tim learnt that up to 180,000 people catch a healthcare-associated infection every year in Australia that prolong hospital stay and occupy two million hospital beds.  

He also discovered that compared to a Sydney public toilet, the levels of germs are six times higher on public transport and 15 times higher in gyms. 

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At the time, he had just met his now business partner, Dan, who knew the challenges he had been facing with Marcus, and had been involved in a US company called Allied BioScience.

"The company had created a next-generation long-last disinfectant called Surfacewise2", Smith explains.

"Once applied to a surface it makes that surface hostile to germs. A single application lasts up to 90 days. And it's exceptionally good at reducing superbugs and hospital-acquired infections."

After years of work, Tim and Dan secured the rights for Surfacewise2 in Australia and New Zealand, which received TGA listing just before Christmas and is currently being launched in the marketplace. 

Photo: Testing SurfaceWise2
Photo: Testing SurfaceWise2 Photo: Supplied

He's hopeful it will be rolled out for commercial use in spaces such as hospitals, offices, aged-care facilities, public transport and gyms.

"While it's still early days, we're really excited and believe this product can make a substantial difference to the local community and also the local economy," he says.

According to Tim, a recent report estimated that presenteeism - going in to work when you are unwell - costs the Australian economy $34 billion every year.

"The difference with Surfacewise2 is that it has been clinically proven to provide long-lasting protection. We are able to break the chain of infection."

Most household disinfectants, he explains, require 10 minutes of application to achieve effectiveness against germs.

"It's a shame we couldn't launch before Marcus passed away as I've no doubt it could have reduced his risk of infection, but I hope we can help others.

"That's what drives me and why I'm so passionate. I know we can make a real difference."