Copper reduces infection risk by more than 40 percent

July 1, 2011, University of Southampton
This is professor Bill Keevil of the University of Southampton. Credit: University of Southampton

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 effect on antibiotic-resistant organisms at the World Health Organization's first International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC).

'New Insights into the Antimicrobial Mechanisms of Copper Touch Surfaces' observes the survival of pathogens on conventional hospital touch surfaces contributes to increasing incidence and spread of antibiotic resistance and infections. Keevil proposes antimicrobial copper surfaces as one way to address this, since they achieve a rapid kill of significant bacterial, viral and .

He reported studies on dry surfaces with a range of pathogens, concluding that: "Copper's rapid destruction of pathogens could prevent mutational resistance developing and also help reduce the spread of to receptive and potentially more virulent organisms, as well as genes responsible for . Additionally, copper touch surfaces could have a key role in preventing the transmission of healthcare-associated infections. Extensive have demonstrated copper's antimicrobial efficacy against key organisms responsible for these infections, and around the world are now reporting on its efficacy in busy, real-world environments."

The latest trial – conducted in intensive care units at three facilities in the United States – has shown that the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care unit rooms resulted in a 40.4% reduction in the risk of acquiring a hospital infection.

The study, funded by the US Department of Defense, was designed to determine the efficacy of antimicrobial copper in reducing the level of pathogens in hospital rooms, and whether such a reduction would translate into a lower rate of infection.

Researchers at the three hospitals involved in the trial – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, both in Charleston, South Carolina – replaced commonly-touched items such as bed rails, overbed tray tables, nurse call buttons and IV poles with antimicrobial copper versions.

Data presented today by trial leader Dr Michael Schmidt, Professor and Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at MUSC, at ICPIC, demonstrated a 97% reduction in surface pathogens in rooms with copper surfaces, the same level achieved by "terminal" cleaning: the regimen conducted after each patient vacates a room.

Dr Schmidt said of the results: "Bacteria present on ICU room surfaces are probably responsible for 35-80% of patient infections, demonstrating how critical it is to keep hospitals clean. The copper objects used in the clinical trial supplemented cleaning protocols, lowered microbial levels, and resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the number of infections contracted by patients treated in those rooms."

Explore further: Study finds copper proves effective against new E. coli strains

Related Stories

Study finds copper proves effective against new E. coli strains

June 2, 2011
As the World Health Organisation suggests the E. coli outbreak in Germany is a strain never before seen in an outbreak – O104:H4 – laboratory science conducted at the University of Southampton indicates a role for ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

New study validates clotting risk factors in chronic kidney disease

January 17, 2018
In late 2017, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) discovered and published (Science Translational Medicine, (9) 417, Nov 2017) a potential treatment target to prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD) ...

Newly-discovered TB blood signal provides early warning for at-risk patients

January 17, 2018
Tuberculosis can be detected in people with HIV infection via a unique blood signal before symptoms appear, according to a new study by researchers from the Crick, Imperial College London and the University of Cape Town.

New study offers insights on genetic indicators of COPD risk

January 16, 2018
Researchers have discovered that genetic variations in the anatomy of the lungs could serve as indicators to help identify people who have low, but stable, lung function early in life, and those who are particularly at risk ...

Previous influenza virus exposures enhance susceptibility in another influenza pandemic

January 16, 2018
While past exposure to influenza A viruses often builds immunity to similar, and sometimes different, strains of the virus, Canadian researchers are calling for more attention to exceptions to that rule.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
not rated yet Jul 01, 2011
Everything is going to turn green! That is why silver has been used for these applications instead of copper.

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.