New Study Reinforces Copper's Ability to Kill Bacteria in Hospital Rooms

<p>A new clinical study published in the American Journal of Infection Control confirms copper&rsquo;s ability to continuously kill harmful bacteria in hospital settings. Grinnell College associate professor of biology Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, PhD, and her team conducted research over 18 months at Grinnell College and Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) in Iowa with more than 1,500 samples. The research found significantly fewer bacteria on copper alloy products such as grab bars, toilet flush valves, IV poles, switches, keyboards, sinks and dispensers than on traditional hospital room surfaces.&nbsp; In this case, products used in the study were made from CuVerro&reg; copper alloys, one of several EPA-registered brands of antimicrobial copper materials. </p>

A new clinical study published in the American Journal of Infection Control confirms copper’s ability to continuously kill harmful bacteria* in hospital settings.

Grinnell College associate professor of biology Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, PhD, and her team conducted research over 18 months at Grinnell College and Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) in Iowa with more than 1,500 samples. The research found significantly fewer bacteria on copper alloy products such as grab bars, toilet flush valves, IV poles, switches, keyboards, sinks and dispensers than on traditional hospital room surfaces.  In this case, products used in the study were made from CuVerro® copper alloys, one of several EPA-registered brands of antimicrobial copper materials.

“Even the most conscientious cleaning will not remove all bacteria cells from a surface, allowing for recolonization,” Hinsa-Leasure said. “To reduce the risk of patients acquiring an infection while in the hospital, we need to reduce the number of bacteria surrounding them. This is what makes copper so important, it is always working to destroy microorganisms and will maintain a clean environment for patients.”

To help educate hospital executives and their staff on the benefits and ease of installing copper components, the Copper Development Association (CDA) recently launched two videos featuring Grinnell Regional Medical Center: Installing Antimicrobial Copper Components and Cleaning and Maintaining Antimicrobial Copper Surfaces.

Because of the findings, Grinnell Regional Medical Center president and CEO Todd Linden said the medical center is now installing bacteria-killing surfaces throughout the facility. Currently, only half of the patient rooms are fitted with copper hardware and components.

"A wonderful thing about copper is it’s doing its job to kill bacteria 24 hours a day 365 days a year, and so at the end of the day when I go home, I know that we've got a new ally for fighting the potential for infection in our hospital, and that makes me feel great,” Linden said.

Today more than two dozen U.S. manufacturers are producing antimicrobial copper components that are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – everything from door handles, stair handrails, grab bars, sinks, carts and other healthcare instruments and equipment. With several different copper alloys to choose from, these durable products can exhibit the warm tones of brushed nickel, the colder gray of stainless steel, the warm yellows of brass and bronze, or the traditional red of copper. 

“I think hospital staffs have been very impressed by antimicrobial copper’s beauty and ease of maintenance, which is one of the reasons hospitals across North America have begun installing these revolutionary, bacteria-killing metal surfaces,” said Adam Estelle, a project engineer with CDA.  Over 200 facilities in 35+ states and 13+ countries have deployed antimicrobial copper surfaces from U.S. manufacturers to supplement infection control practices.  Facilities include hospitals, fitness centers, schools, laboratories, mass transit facilities, restaurants and more.

Source: Copper Development Association

*EPA public health registration for copper alloys

*In the U.S., after rigorous testing, the EPA registered many copper based alloys, such as brass and bronze, as public health products that continuously kill six bacteria that cause infections.  Laboratory testing shows that, when cleaned regularly, antimicrobial copper surfaces kill greater than 99.9 percent of the following bacteria within two hours of exposure: Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE), Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7. Antimicrobial copper surfaces are a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices and have been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but do not necessarily prevent cross contamination or infection; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices.

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