Live Experiment Shows That MRSA Dies on Antimicrobial Copper Surfaces


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has met its match against  antimicrobial copper.  A live webcast experiment ( demonstrated that antimicrobial copper effectively kills MRSA within two hours while it readily survives on stainless steel.

"Antimicrobial copper is part of the solution in the fight against healthcare-acquired infections it kills 99.9 percent of bacteria* within two hours of exposure," says Harold Michels, senior vice president of technology and technical services for the Copper Development Association (CDA). The experiment was sponsored by the International Copper Association and the European Copper Institute.

Professor William Keevil, microbiological researcher and head of Environmental Research at the University of Southampton (UK), who conducted the experiment notes, "We know that 80 percent of all infections are spread by touch and a contaminated hand will contaminate at least another seven touch surfaces," Keevil said during the webcast.

MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics called beta-lactams, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). Between 2005 and 2008, 17,508 cases of invasive MRSA infections contracted in healthcare facilities were recorded in the U.S. alone.

Before the experiment, the MRSA culture was stained with a green fluorescent dye to make it visible under a microscope, and then placed on Antimicrobial Copper and stainless steel. As the bacteria died off, the fluorescence diminished. The rate of diminishing fluorescence was a measure of the antimicrobial power of the surface on which it had been placed. The stainless steel surface showed little fade, indicating the surface had no antimicrobial activity. By contrast, the MRSA on the Antimicrobial Copper surface died in real time during the webcast.

Why is this important?  The first week of April is International MRSA Testing Week, sponsored by the MRSA Survivors Network. The goal of International MRSA Testing Week is to highlight the global epidemic of MRSA, and to set up a worldwide MRSA surveillance and reporting system. This system would further the goal of raising awareness of MRSA, centralizing the relevant information, and helping facilitate the implementation of active detection and isolation (ADI).

MRSA is just one of six infectious bacteria that antimicrobial copper products can make public health claims against under the EPA registration and help protect against becoming a healthcare-acquired infection (HAI) in healthcare facilities worldwide. How prevalent are HAIs? About 2 million HAIs are reported in the U.S. annually resulting in 100,000 deaths.  HAIs are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease, cancer and strokes and kill more people than automobile accidents, fires and drowning combined, according to the CDC. Worldwide, more than 7 million people suffer from HAIs annually.  In addition to the immeasurable personal costs, the World Health Organization estimates the actual costs of HAI deaths to be roughly $6.5 billion.

"Our goal is for healthcare administrators, infectious disease professionals, architects and other healthcare decision-makers to consider antimicrobial copper products when they're retrofitting or building new facilities because of their ability to continuously kill bacterial contamination," Michels says.

* Laboratory testing shows that when cleaned regularly, antimicrobial copper kills greater than 99.9 percent of the following bacteria within two hours of exposure: 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; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices.

In the U.S., after many years of research, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered more than 350 copper based alloys, such as brass and bronze, as public health antimicrobial products.  Antimicrobial Copper is the only class of solid touch surfaces registered by the EPA to continuously kill bacteria that cause infections and pose a risk to human health.

Copper is the active, microbe killing ingredient. Antimicrobial copper isn't just pure copper. It's shorthand for a host of copper based metals (or alloys) that can go head-to-head with stainless steel in terms of strength, durability and aesthetics.  In addition to their antimicrobial properties, copper alloys are durable and recyclable, wear-resistant, and can stand up to harsh environments as well as retain details and finish over time

The Copper Development Association Inc. is the market development, engineering and information services arm of the copper industry, chartered to enhance and expand markets for copper and its alloys in North America.

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