Health economics assessment of antimicrobial copper for infection control

June 24, 2013

A unique health economics assessment of copper's role in preventing healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) is being presented this week at the WHO's International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, demonstrating rapid payback on the capital investment.

Health economics evaluations are typically applied to medication or surgery costs, but this study from York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) – part of the University of York in the UK – investigated the of applying an engineering and design approach to , deploying antimicrobial copper touch surfaces in intensive care units (ICUs).

The pathogens that cause HCAIs can survive in the environment for days, even months, providing reservoirs of on frequently-touched surfaces. Durable and effective antimicrobial offer an that can serve as an additional line of defence against these pathogens.

Copper and touch surfaces (collectively termed 'antimicrobial copper') have been shown to continuously and significantly reduce bioburden by >90 per cent in clinical trials in Chile, the UK and the US. Additionally, the most recently-published data from a US Department of Defense trial conducted in the ICUs of three hospitals shows that the replacement of six near-patient surfaces with antimicrobial copper equivalents was associated with a 58 per cent reduction in HCAIs.

The YHEC study investigated the cost-effectiveness of a copper intervention, comparing expenditure on components with improvements in and other tangible benefits. This investigation allowed the derivation of a spreadsheet-based model that uses the best current, published information and shows the rapid return on investment of a copper intervention. It also calculates the impact on bed days and quality-adjusted life years (QALY). The model is simple, transparent and fully referenced, and allows input of data for adaptation to specific local settings.

Using UK data, the model predicts that the cost of replacing six key, frequently-touched surfaces in a 20-bed ICU with antimicrobial copper equivalents will be recouped in less than two months, based on fewer infections and the resulting shorter lengths of stay.

Dr Matthew Taylor, YHEC's Director and one of the paper's authors, notes: "After the initial two months, ongoing cost savings will accrue from the reduction in blocked beds and better-directed staff resources."

Over five years, the copper intervention is shown to save almost £2 million in reduced cost of HCAIs compared to traditional components, if fitted during a planned build or refurbishment. While the total cost of the copper intervention is £30,600 higher than traditional components, over a five-year period, it is shown to result in a cost per infection averted of just £94.10.

In conclusion, Dr Taylor points out: "This is not a typical health economics evaluation as there are confounding factors regarding the responsibility for budgetary spend in hospitals. This is an engineering solution needing capital budget (typically held by Facilities/Estates), but with an impact on infection prevention, cost of care and clinical outcomes. It therefore requires a high degree of understanding and collaboration at senior decision-making levels."

Explore further: Copper reduces infection risk by more than 40 percent

More information: More information about Antimicrobial Copper at

Related Stories

Copper reduces infection risk by more than 40 percent

July 1, 2011

Professor Bill Keevil, Head of the Microbiology Group and Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton, has presented research into the mechanism by which copper exerts its antimicrobial ...

Research shows copper destroys norovirus

May 28, 2013

New research from the University of Southampton shows that copper and copper alloys will rapidly destroy norovirus - the highly-infectious sickness bug. The virus can be contracted from contaminated food or water, person-to-person ...

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...

Computer model reveals deadly route of Ebola outbreak

November 10, 2015

Using a novel statistical model, a research team led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health mapped the spread of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.