Copper touch surfacesGerms are a part of nature and we cannot beatnature. So hospital-acquired infections cannot betotally eradicated. But we can fight it more effectivelywith copper touch surfaces. A new way to containhospital-acquired infections lies in copper.The use of copper alloys for frequently touchedsurfaces as a supplement to existing standardinfection prevention measures, such as, hand-washing and disinfection regimens, has far-reachingimplications. Potential applications, which includedoor and furniture hardware, bed rails, intravenous (IV)stands, dispensers, faucets, sinks and work stations,can help reduce the presence of disease-causingbacteria in hospitals.
Copper is the Answer • Each year, 300,000 nosocomial infection. patients contract aIn the 1850s, some 50 years before scientists In Asiadiscovered microbes, Florence Nightingale, apioneer of modern nursing, discovered that her SARS outbreak: Between November 2002 andpatients fared much better when the hospital July 2003, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndromeenvironment was kept clean. She instituted a laundry (SARS), which began in November 2002 in China’sservice, rigorously cleaned all medical and hospital Guangdong Province, caused 8,096 known infectedequipment, and had the floors scrubbed for the cases and 774 deaths worldwide. The SARS epidemicfirst time. The results were unbelievable: The death sent shock waves around the world as it quicklyrates of patients suffering from cholera, typhus and spread to Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada.dysentery came down from 42% to a mere 2%! World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the outbreakMore than 150 years later, however, despite highlighted how new deadly microbes could spreadenormous advances in the field of microbiology quickly around the world, and it was a wake-up calland infection control, hospital-acquired infections to the real danger of emerging diseases.still continue to plague the patients and hospitals atalarming levels. Antimicrobial CopperIn the United States Scientific research and historic facts confirm that copper and its alloys, brass and bronze, are naturally• More than 2 million hospital-acquired infections antimicrobial materials. These materials kill harmful such as MRSA per year (1) bacteria and that has been recognised by the U.S.• Nearly 90,000 deaths annually due to hospital- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). acquired infections (1)• Resistant infections cost health facilities about EPA registration USD 30 billion per year (1) 275 copper alloys, including brass and bronze, haveIn the United Kingdom been registered with the EPA as antimicrobial materials that kill bacteria. The registration acknowledges• Each year, hospital-acquired infections cost the claims that copper, brass and bronze are capable National Health Service in the region of 1 billion of killing harmful, potentially deadly bacteria. Copper pounds (2) is the first solid surface material to receive this type• Infections on average extend hospital stay by 11 of EPA registration, which is supported by extensive days per patient (2) antimicrobial efficacy testing.• At least 5,000 patients die of complications from infections they contracted in hospitals (2) The laboratory research performed under EPA- approved protocols demonstrated that copper alloy surfaces kill more than 99.9% of several bacteria(1) A 2000 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention report estimate.(2) Report by the National Audit Office. known to be human pathogens within two hours. The
Infectious Disease MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) Society of America, VRE (Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus) as derived from FQRP (Fluoroquinolone-Resistant Pseudomonas Aeruginosa) data collected by the Centres for 60 Disease Control and Prevention 50 40 % Incidence 30 20 10 0 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000organisms tested were: Copper touch surfaces• Staphylococcus aureus Many of the commonly used materials in healthcare• Enterobacter aerogenes facilities such as stainless steel have proven to have• Escherichia coli O157:H7 comparatively little or no adverse effect on harmful• Pseudomonas aeruginosa and bacteria.• Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Replacing frequently touched surfaces with copper or high-copper alloys such as brass and bronze,MRSA is one of the most virulent strains of antibiotic- which are naturally antimicrobial, can be an effectiveresistant bacteria and a common cause of hospital- infection control measure. Such a measure canacquired infections. complement other infection control practices such as frequent hand-washing, patient screening andHistoric evidence isolation, and improved cleaning.Before anyone recognised that microorganisms Frequently touched surfaces in hospitals that can beexisted, the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Aztecs made from copper or copper alloys include:used copper compounds for good hygiene andto treat disease. Egyptians used copper to sterilise • door handles • push platesdrinking water and wounds. Hippocrates treated • light switches • bed railsopen wounds and skin irritations with copper. The • grab rails • intravenous (IV) standsRomans catalogued numerous medicinal uses of • dressing trolleys • faucets copper for various diseases. The Aztecs treated sore • sinks • counter and table topsthroats with copper, while people in Persia and India • dispensers (alcohol gel, paper towel, soap)applied copper to treat boils, eye infections andvenereal ulcers. These touch surfaces are all potential reservoirs of harmful microbes. Reducing the number of liveTouch surfaces: Source of infections germs on these surfaces can possibly control the spread of MRSA and other sources of hospital-In healthcare facilities, surfaces in proximity to patients acquired infections.are of the most concern. 80% of infectious diseasesare spread by touch. A hand contaminated with The use of a Copper Alloy surface is a supplementthe influenza A virus will contaminate the next seven to and not a substitute for standard infection controlsurfaces that are touched. practices; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices, including those practicesNot all hospital-acquired infections are preventable related to cleaning and disinfection of environmentalbut UK infection control teams recognise that surfaces. The Copper Alloy surface material hasa 15% reduction could be achieved through a been shown to reduce microbial contamination, butseries of infection control measures, including it does not necessarily prevent cross contamination.improved hygiene. This could also lead to savings ofapproximately 150 million pounds a year.