In the battle against hospital acquired infections, a new tool has emerged: anti-microbial copper. Researchers, in a study funded by the US Department of Defense, installed the material on different hospital surfaces at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and two other US hospitals. The copper led to a bacteria decrease of 97% in operating rooms and a 41% decrease in hospital acquired infections.
The new technology holds strong promise for hospitals which have long struggled with hospital acquired infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in twenty hospital patients will contract an infection from the hospital with 98,987 deaths from hospital acquired infections in 2002. The infections cost the US approximately $28.4 to $33.8 billion.
At MUSC, researchers first tested and observed the intensive care unit to determine what surfaces were most frequently touched. Bed rails, call buttons, and chairs near patients had the highest number of bacteria growth with nearly 17,000 colonies per 100 square meters. The bacteria included MRSA, a medication-resistant infection known as the “superbug.” Frequent cleaning only temporarily decreased the bacteria population. Researchers then installed the anti-microbial copper on the most-touched surfaces including over-bed tray tables, nurse call buttons, IV poles, nurses’ call devices, monitor bezels, and bed rails.
The copper’s naturally anti-microbial properties killed 97% of bacteria and confirmed a link between reducing microbial levels in hospitals and a reduction in infections. MUSC professor Michael Schmidt is not surprised by the success of the copper.
Schmidt states, “The anti-microbial nature of copper has been used by humans for millennia. It has been used for sanitizing water in ancient and modern times….
For more information on whether specific SC hospitals have successfully reduced their hospital acquired infections, see the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s website. SC hospitals are required to submit their infection rates twice a year.