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article imageAntimicrobial copper leads to patient safety

By Tim Sandle     Jun 5, 2014 in Science
The U.K. health service have concluded that the use of products containing copper, which is an antimicrobial metal, is of benefit and enhances patient safety through minimizing hospital acquired infections.
With the National Health Service (NHS) reports, results presented by a Birmingham University research team at an international conference have confirmed that the use of copper on surfaces can improve hygiene in hospitals. These studies showed antimicrobial copper touch surfaces improve environmental hygiene in clinical environments when used as a supplement to routine cleaning. Such reports have led Sheffield's Northern General Hospital to include antimicrobial copper door furniture in a new facility.
The surfaces of copper and its alloys, such as brass and bronze, are antimicrobial. They have an inherent ability to kill a wide range of harmful microbes relatively rapidly (often within two hours or less) and with a high degree of efficacy. According to Pharmaceutical Microbiology, the impact of copper surfaces has been found to have a "halo" effect on surrounding non-copper materials, helping to reduce the presence of bacteria in healthcare environments.
An in-depth study was performed in 2013 at three medical centers including the Medical University of South Carolina, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Patients who were admitted to the intensive care units of these hospitals were randomly assigned to receive care in a traditional patient room or in a room where items such as bed rails, tables, drip-bag poles, and nurse's call buttons were made solely from copper-based metals. Both traditional patient rooms and rooms with copper surfaces at each institution were cleaned using the same practices.
The proportion of patients who developed hospital acquired infections or colonization with bacteria like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) was significantly lower among patients in rooms with copper surfaces (7.1 percent) compared with patients in traditional rooms (12.3 percent). The proportion of patients developing HAI was significantly lower among those assigned to copper rooms (3.4 percent) compared with those in traditional rooms (8.1 percent) (Results published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology).
Furthermore, a U.S. and a Canadian company have added copper to their Top Ten Technologies watch lists for 2014. According to Cleanroom Technology, this is in recognition of the ever-growing body of evidence supporting copper’s role in infection prevention and control. ECRI Institute included antimicrobial copper in its ‘Top 10 Hospital C-Suite Watch List 2014’, targeting senior decision-makers within healthcare systems, providing them with summaries of emerging technologies that can help improve capital planning efforts throughout the year.
Similarly, the Canadian Network for Environmental Scanning in Health (CNESH) — leaders in healthcare horizon scanning — features copper in its "Top 10 New & Emerging Health Technology Watch List: 2014."
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