Fighting Infection With Copper

An Irish hospital has specified hygienic copper door handles as part of its plan to reduce healthcare-associated infections – the first in the world to do this throughout its facility.

St Francis Private Hospital in County Westmeath made the decision after examining compelling evidence from the clinical trial at a hospital in Birmingham, UK. This showed that copper surfaces such as taps, toilet seats and door pushplates can reduce microbial contamination by 90-100 per cent.

Copper HandleGeneral manager and director of nursing Noeleen Sheridan explained: “All healthcare facilities are acutely aware of the risks from the spread of germs and the high costs of negating them. As it is estimated that 80 per cent of infections are spread by touch, keeping surfaces like door handles as germ free as possible will impact on the spread of infection.”

Professor Tom Elliott, who led the copper clinical trial at the Selly Oak Hospital, believes copper could play a key role in helping to contain healthcare associated infections. “Laboratory research has shown that MRSA and Clostridium difficile microbes die much more quickly when they come into contact with copper-based surfaces than on the usual surfaces you find in a hospital,” he explained.

The use of copper as a preventative health measure is becoming increasingly well recognised – it is the first solid surface material to be registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency as having proven public health benefits, helping to reduce contamination between cleans. Antimicrobial copper surfaces have been shown to kill more than 99.9 per cent of specific bacteria (including the MRSA superbug) within two hours, and to continue to kill more than 99 per cent of these bacteria even after repeated contamination.

Noeleen Sheridan concluded: “Copper touch surfaces serve as an extra line of defence in addition to the hospital’s accredited hygiene measures.”

Columbus Dixon May 2010

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