- Medical research confirms antimicrobial properties of copper touch surfaces
With an estimated US$18 billion in investment in developing hospital infrastructure in the GCC region, the integration of copper for various touch surfaces will significantly enhance hygiene standards, says International Copper Association (ICA).
ICAâ€™s observation is based on research results presented recently at the 7th International Conference of the Hospital Infection Society in Liverpool that confirms the role of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces as a supplement to routine cleaning to improve environmental hygiene in clinical environments.
In an extension of an earlier study, a wide selection of standard touch surfaces were replaced with antimicrobial copper equivalents on a general medical ward at Selly Oak hospital.
The frequently-touched surfaces identified for substitution with copper-containing surfaces included door furniture, grab rails, trolleys, over-bed tables and taps. During the six-month study, copper and equivalent control items were sampled once a week for 24 weeks, at least 90 minutes after the morningâ€™s routine cleaning and ahead of the 5pm cleaning. The levels of microbiological contamination were then compared between the copper and standard surfaces.
The results showed that the highest contamination was found in the patient bathrooms, particularly on the chrome-plated toilet flush lever handles and tap handles, and on the plastic light pulls and toilet seats.
Copper-containing items, including door push plates, door pull handles, tap handles, toilet flush lever handles, patient over-bed tables, dressing trolleys, socket switches and light pull cord toggles were found to have significantly fewer microorganisms on their surfaces than the controls, and vancomycin-resistant enterococci, meticillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus and coliform bacteria were recovered less frequently from these.
Ravinder Bhan, Principal Consultant of TPS Management Consultants, which represents ICA in the GCC region, said: â€œIn addition to the anti-microbial properties of copper, the metal also has wide spread application in the construction sector of the region, by promoting energy use efficiency and sustainable development.â€
He added: â€œThe recent medical research once again confirming the efficiency of copper in upholding a more hygienic environment will therefore be a great value addition for the healthcare sector, especially now, as the region invests heavily in hospital infrastructure. The advantages are dual: One, it improves overall hygiene; two, the use of copper will improve energy efficiency.â€
Contaminated surfaces act as reservoirs of clinical microorganisms, which can be transferred to the hands of staff, patients and visitors. The study shows that, despite routine cleaning, surfaces in the clinical environment may become contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms.
Microbial load, including the presence of microorganisms responsible for healthcare-associated infections, was shown to be significantly reduced between cleans on the majority of the copper surfaces, compared to standard surfaces.
The researchers, led by Professor Tom Elliott, Consultant Microbiologist at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, concluded that the use of copper, in combination with optimal infection prevention strategies, may further reduce the risk of patients acquiring infections in hospitals and other healthcare environments.