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Copper could be a key player for fighting hospital infections

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

In a multisite trial, researchers found copper can kill 97 percent of infections that commonly occur in the hospital and lead to infection. The finding was presented at the World Health Organization's 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, Switzerland, July 1, 2011.

According to Professor Bill Keevil, Head of the Microbiology Group and Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton, "Extensive laboratory tests have demonstrated copper's antimicrobial efficacy against key organisms responsible for these infections, and clinical trials around the world are now reporting on its efficacy in busy, real-world environments."

Keevil also says copper kills bacteria fast, making it more difficult for them to mutate and become drug resistant.

Thirty five to 80 percent of infections that prolong hospital stays and can lead to long-term complications come from the ICU, according to Dr Michael Schmidt, Professor and Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at MUSC, at ICPIC, who presented the study.

Results show copper surfaces could lower hospital infection rates

In the study, conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, mutually in Charleston, South Carolina, copper was tested in areas of the ICU that are frequently touched, such as patient call bells, food tray tables and IV poles.

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Keevil said, “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."

Schmidt was able to show a 97 percent reduction of bacteria on copper surfaces in the hospital.

Recently, Keevil tested copper’s ability to kill E coli, finding it could be used in food preparation areas to stop even new strains of the bacteria.

Copper kills bacteria, viruses and fungus and reduced the risk of a hospital acquired infection by 40 percent in the newest study.

Keevil suggests copper could be used to control hospital infections, shown to reduce bacteria to the same extent as terminal hospital cleaning. A 2007 study by the researcher showed copper can kill MRSA, Clostridium difficile in preliminary finings and the human flu virus and likely Avian flu.

Image credit: Morguefile