Drug-Resistant Bacteria May Be Eradicated By Common Metal

October 17, 2007


Congress Funds Testing of Copper's Ability to Reduce Threat of Hospital Infections

NEW YORK - Clinical trials focusing on the ability of copper metals to kill deadly pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), on touch surfaces are being conducted in hospital facilities in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina. The studies are being carried out for the U.S. Department of Defense under the aegis of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technologies Research Center (TATRC), a section of the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), and implemented by Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).

Cross contamination of dangerous bacteria from common touch surfaces is of increasing concern to healthcare facilities and communities, as highlighted by a report in this month's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Previously, the Centers for Disease Control and Infections estimated that infections acquired in U.S. hospitals affect some two million individuals every year, resulting in nearly 100,000 deaths annually and which some experts believe, is costing $30 billion. Now that threat appears to be higher, particularly when incidences of community-acquired infections are taken into account.

Research conducted at the University of Southampton in the U.K. and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection proves copper, brass and bronze can quickly and efficiently eradicate several different pathogens, which are the source of many hospital-acquired infections, including MRSA and Escherichia coli O157:H7.

A series of three clinical trials will determine how well copper alloy surfaces, including those made with brass and bronze, mitigate infectious microbes, decrease cross-contamination and ultimately help reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired infections in patients. Rates of infection will be measured using three indicator organisms: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) and Acinetobacter baumannii. The surfaces involved in the study are typically made of stainless steel or plastic, which have little or no effect in controlling pathogens.

According to Dr. Harold Michels, vice president of Technical and Information Services for the Copper Development Association and the studies' principal investigator, "A positive outcome from the trials will provide hospitals with solid information on an additional method of combating increasing infection rates and controlling virulent, antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as MRSA, within their environments."

The studies are being conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medial Center, both in Charleston, South Carolina. Previous studies were conducted by ATS Labs in Eagan, Minnesota, under test protocols established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They show solid copper alloys are more than 99.9% effective on five pathogens commonly found in healthcare facilities. The tests have been submitted to EPA as part of a registration process to secure approval for making public health claims for the copper metals.