Can the Use of Copper Help Prevent Infection?

Prof Tom Elliott,
Consultant Microbiologist at University Hospitals

Addressing the question: Can the use of copper help prevent infection? Professor Tom Elliott, Consultant Microbiologist at University Hospitals Birmingham, said in a presentation at the Infection Prevention 2013 conference that copper and copper alloy touch surfaces (collectively termed antimicrobial copper) may indeed have a role in providing patients with a safer, more hygienic environment.
In the first clinical trial “ carried out at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham in 2007“2008 “ it was shown that microbial load on frequently-touched surfaces such as taps, light switches, grab rails, bedside tables and toilet seats could be reduced by greater than 90 percent by replacing these items with antimicrobial copper equivalents. These observations have subsequently been supported by similar studies in healthcare facilities across the world. Clinical trial shows copper continuously reduces bacterial burden by 83 percent and reduces the risk of infection by 58 percent.
Most recently, a preliminary report on the effect of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces on the incidence of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) in an ICU environment showed a patients risk of acquiring an HCAI is reduced when just six key touch surfaces in their vicinity are made from antimicrobial copper. This supports the use of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces as an adjunct to existing infection control procedures, in conjunction with continued regular surface cleaning and disinfection.
These trial results raise a simple question, explains Professor Elliott, why select a material other than antimicrobial copper when specifying surfaces that may be vehicles for the spread of infection? With the advent of multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing HCAIs, some of which are very difficult to treat, such an approach “ with the continuous antimicrobial activity of copper “ is potentially even more relevant and important in todays healthcare setting than ever before.

Worlds First Antimicrobial Copper Train
Antimicrobial Copper touch surfaces are becoming increasingly common in hospitals, but a train on the Valparaiso Metro in Chile is the first of its kind to be equipped with Antimicrobial Copper hand rails and poles. The move is intended to help reduce the risk of infections spreading between the Metros 18 million annual users and improve the public transport experience.

Patients Watch Out

Make sure that the hospital staff clean their hands before and after patient care. Hand washing alone accounts for prevention of 70 percent infections
If you have an intravenous catheter, keep the skin around the dressing clean and dry. One out of every four catheter may become occluded
Ensure that the diaphragm of the stethoscope is wiped with alcohol. It could be contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus and other dangerous bacteria
Make use of Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) and ensure that gloves are used correctly
Get your shots, and ensure those close to you also get vaccinated
Think and look in terms of environmental cleanliness and hygiene and follow the rules of isolation
Ensure safe injection practices
Dont overlook or ignore disposal of sharps and bio medical waste
Be particular about processing, disinfection and sterilization and storage of equipments
Think twice about antibiotics usage and be aware when it is inappropriate
Ensure that your clothing does not become a source of infection
Keep handy the contact details of infection preventionists in your hospital
Advise patients to take shower with chlorhexidine soap before a surgery


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