Copper proves to be a powerful infection fighter

Joint US-Chile research finds copper to be a powerful tool in the fight against healthcare-associated infections when used as a complement to cleaning and disinfection.
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When used as a complement to cleaning and disinfection, copper surfaces are a powerful tool in the fight against healthcare-associated infections. This is thanks to the metal’s inherent and continuous antimicrobial properties, which were put to the test by Dr von Dessauer and her team in Santiago, Chile during a joint US-Chile research project.

‘The new research was conducted at the city’s oldest paediatric facility: the 249-bed Roberto del Rio Hospital,’ writes the European Cleaning Journal. ‘Sixteen rooms in Paediatric Intensive Care and Paediatric Intermediate Care were involved in the study, with the first step being to determine a base level of bacteria on frequently-touched surfaces. The team found contamination levels exceeded the proposed safe threshold of 500 colony-forming units (cfu) per 100 sq cm.’

‘The spread of infections via frequently-touched surfaces surrounding patients is a serious concern in modern healthcare. Whilst cleaning can remove pathogens from hard surfaces they can be recontaminated within minutes.’

The research team identified bed rails and levers, IV poles, tap handles and healthcare workstations as the most highly contaminated and frequently touched surfaces. As such, these were targeted for the upgrade to copper.

‘Bacterial levels on the copper surfaces and corresponding non-copper surfaces in control rooms were measured twice monthly for 12 months. The copper surfaces were found to harbour, on average, 88 per cent fewer bacteria than those in the control rooms.’ Also, ‘94 per cent contained bacterial concentrations below those recommended for total aerobic cfu immediately after terminal cleaning (500 cfu per 100 sq cm), regardless of when the room was last terminally cleaned. Fifty-eight per cent of those copper surfaces also had concentrations below the limit of detection.’

‘In contrast, only 48 per cent of the non-copper control items were below this critical level, with only 3 per cent of the control objects found to be below the limit of detection.

‘The researchers concluded that copper surfaces warrant serious consideration for facilities considering no-touch disinfection technologies to reduce the spread of healthcare-associated infections.’


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