Copper fittings beat bacteria
Following an international field trial of "Antimicrobial copper surfaces", Asklepios Clinic, in Hamburg, Germany, has fitted door handles and light switches made of special copper alloys combat the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Independent scientists of the University of Halle-Wittenberg, regularly collected samples and compared the number of bacterium on the different contact surfaces. The desired effect was observed above all on door handles: under normal daily conditions the level of multi-resistant Staphylococci Aureus (MRSA) bacteria decreased by a third, and their resettlement on copper door handles and switches decreased considerably. On wards equipped with copper handles a lowered infection rate in patients was also observed. However, Asklepios points out that this should be examined more thoroughly in larger studies.
‘This clinical effect has surpassed my expectations,’ said Professor Jörg Braun MD, Chief Physician of the I. Medical Department at Asklepios Clinic Wandsbek. The reduction raises hopes that copper based fittings may be a reasonable supplement to existing hygiene measures.
Professor Dietrich H Nies, Director of the Institute for Biology at the Martin-Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, and specialist for biometal metabolism, added his positive assessment: ‘Only 63% of the germs were found on the copper surfaces compared with the control surfaces, i.e. common door handles, door plates and light switches. Moreover, it has been shown in practice that copper considerably reduces the resettlement of surfaces with germs.’
Scientists in England, Japan, South Africa, Chile and the US are currently testing various copper alloys to ascertain the most suitable alloy and fields of application. Under laboratory conditions, copper surfaces have been shown to eliminate up to 99% of germs in the shortest period of time. Although frequent hand disinfection is routine for physicians and nurses, along with other hygiene measures, it is not always adequate. ‘We must break new ground to reduce the potential danger for our patients,’ said Professor Braun. Copper alloy surfaces may present an essential contribution to hospital hygiene.
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