Hospital Trial: Pathogens Stay Close To Patients

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Preliminary results from U.S. Department of Defense-funded clinical trials indicate that commonly touched surfaces in intensive care unit rooms are contaminated with high levels of potentially dangerous bacteria.

The findings, reported in a poster session at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, October 28, show that objects in closest proximity to patients, such as bed rails, call buttons and chairs have the highest levels of staphylococcus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE). This suggests that touch surfaces in ICU rooms serve as reservoirs that could transfer bacteria to patients, health care workers and visitors.

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The trials are comparing the bioload found on stainless steel, plastic and aluminum objects in intensive care units with the amount found on the same objects made of antimicrobial copper alloys, such as brass and bronze, in order to determine if copper alloys can lessen cross contamination, and perhaps lower rates of infection.

Independent laboratory studies, submitted by the Copper Development Association to the Environmental Protection Agency, have shown that copper, brass and bronze are more than 99.9 percent effective in killing pathogens, such as MRSA, which are commonly found in hospitals. In response to these findings, the E.P.A. has registered copper, brass and bronze as antimicrobial materials, allowing public health claims to be made about them.

A clinical trial similar to that being funded by the Department of Defense is underway at Selly Oak Hospital, University Hospital Birmingham in the U.K. Results from this trial, also presented at ICAAC, show a 90-95 percent reduction in contamination on copper alloy surfaces compared to the controls.

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