Is copper preventing noso­comial infections?

The properties of copper in helping prevent nosocomial infections were debated this October at the Infection Prevention 2013 conference, when Professor Tom Elliott, Consultant Microbiologist at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, addressed the question: ‘Can the use of copper help prevent infection?’

Photo: Is copper preventing noso­comial infections?
Photo: Is copper preventing noso­comial infections?

From his own pioneering clinical trial and a recently-reported multi-centre trial in the USA, the conclusion is that copper and copper alloy touch surfaces (collectively termed ‘antimicrobial copper’) may indeed have a role in providing patients with a safer, more hygienic environment.

The antimicrobial activity of copper has long been recognised – in people in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome used copper in various medical treatments to help prevent infections. However, its ability to rapidly kill bacteria, viruses and fungi that settle on its surface has now been comprehensively demonstrated in the laboratory, and is also evident in clinical settings.

In the first clinical trial – carried out at the now-closed Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham between 2007 and 2008 – it was shown that microbial load on frequently-touched surfaces, such as taps, light switches, grab rails, bedside tables and toilet seats, could be reduced by greater than 90% if these items are replaced with antimicrobial copper equivalents. These observations have been subsequently supported by similar studies in healthcare facilities across the world.

Most recently, a preliminary report on the effect of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces on the incidence of nosocomial infections (HCAIs) in an ICU environment showed a patient’s risk of acquiring an HCAI is reduced when only six key touch surfaces in their vicinity are made from antimicrobial copper.

‘This supports the use of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces as an adjunct to existing infection control procedures, in conjunction with continued regular surface cleaning and disinfection.

‘These trial results raise a simple question,’ Professor Elliott says. ‘Why select a material other than antimicrobial copper when specifying surfaces that may be vehicles for the spread of infection? With the advent of multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing HCAIs, some of which are very difficult to treat, such an approach – with the continuous antimicrobial activity of copper – is potentially even more relevant and important in today’s healthcare setting than ever before.’
 

18.11.2013

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

Infection control

Knowledge is one thing - implementation another

Insufficient knowledge of infection control, resulting in insufficient compliance, increases the risk of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) and multiresistant pathogens that put patients at risk. At…

Photo

MRSA

Decolonization protocol can prevent dangerous infections

Antiseptic soap, mouthwash, and nose ointment after hospital discharge reduced infections and infection-associated hospitalizations due to MRSA in high-risk patients. Hospital patients who have…

Photo

MRSA

Effective screening can kill several birds with one stone

The MRSA problem has been ignored almost stoically in many European countries for the past 20 years. Thus the number of resistant Staphylococci cases exploded from 1% in 1990 around 25% in 2010.…

Related products

Atlas Genetics - Atlas Genetics io system

Infectious diseases testing

Atlas Genetics - Atlas Genetics io system

Atlas Genetics Ltd
BD Vacutainer Urine Tubes for Microbiology

Other

BD Vacutainer Urine Tubes for Microbiology

BD – Becton Dickinson
Hund – medicus plus Myko

Microscopy

Hund – medicus plus Myko

Helmut Hund GmbH
Olympus – CX33

Microscopy

Olympus – CX33

Olympus Europa SE & Co. KG
Shimadzu – Axima iDplus Assurance

Mass Spectrometry

Shimadzu – Axima iDplus Assurance

Shimadzu Europa GmbH
Shimadzu – Axima iDplus Confidence

Mass Spectrometry

Shimadzu – Axima iDplus Confidence

Shimadzu Europa GmbH