“Copper touch surfaces in the clinical setting effectively reduce infection rates and save lives…”
“A plethora of evidence supports the use of copper-containing, non-porous solid materials in healthcare facilities as an effective method to reduce environmental contamination of high risk touch surfaces, contributing to a reduction in infection rates and at the same time circumventing bacterial resistance mechanisms, a main concern in infection control with antibiotics.”
Extracts from a new review on Antimicrobial Copper in the 2015 edition of ‘Hospital Healthcare Europe’ reference book.
Author: Michael Oko FRCS(Ed) FRCS(ORL-HNS) Consultant ENT Surgeon 150 Harley Street London, UK
We are nearing the scenario of “bad bugs and no drugs”.
Antimicrobial Resistance is a growing problem. See this BBC article on the publication of the study by the AMR Review.
A significant proportion of infection is spread by touch.
Flu studies show that a contaminated hand spreads pathogens to the next seven surfaces touched.
We humans are a very tactile species, touching on average 30 items per minute. Just consider how many touch surfaces in a busy clinical environment are touched every hour, let alone every day, and by many different people.
We need to up our game, and improve our “hotspot” touch surfaces in high-risk areas. Using copper or copper-alloy materials is a simple way to tackle this problem, without contributing to Antimicrobial Resistance.
Have a look at the work by Prof. Keevil and his team at Southampton University; pathogens (bacteria, viruses, yeasts & fungi) are not only killed rapidly on copper and copper-alloy materials but pathogenic DNA/RNA is also destroyed within seconds of contact with copper.
E.g. murine norovirus: 10,000 to zero in four minutes on copper, and DNA destruction evident within 30 seconds.
VRE: 10 million to zero in ten minutes on copper, under realistic indoor conditions
Copper is effective 24/7, between cleans and between touches.
At ambient temperature and humidity too, without the need for costly retraining of healthcare workers or special maintenance.
Take a tour of the ‘Copper Hospital’ at this year’s MEDICA Trade Fair: a reproduction ICU room, bathroom and nurses’ station outfitted with a range of solid antimicrobial copper surfaces. These are proven to continuously kill bacteria and inactivate viruses, contributing to a more hygienic environment for patients, staff and visitors.
Wide range of Antimicrobial items installed in a Lincolnshire hospital: bed rails, over-bed table, visitor’s chair arms, light switches, electrical sockets, cabinet handles, door handles, grab rails, hand-rails, taps.
ENT consultant Mr Michael Oko was so impressed by copper’s antimicrobial efficacy that he paid out of his own pocket for a room used for sleep apnoea trials to be fitted with Antimicrobial Copper, and has started fund-raising to get more rooms fitted-out. What a champion!
Researchers at the University of Oregon have found clues that can help architectural designers to design healthier indoor environments.
“The study is part of the University of Oregon’s Biology and the Built Environment Center’s quest to explore the microbiome of the indoor world, where people spend the majority of their time. Microbiome refers to the total makeup of microorganisms and their collective genetic material found in or on the human body or in another environment.”
They recently published a paper concluding that “design choices can influence the biogeography of microbial communities indoors”.
Dust from 155 rooms in the Lillis Business Complex was analysed and correlated to parameters including usage, people flow and ventilation methods.
Antimicrobial copper is highlighted in a document published by the ECRI Institute titled: ‘Top 10 (Technologies) Hospital C-Suite Executives Watch List’ for 2014.
The overarching goal of the new document is to provide summaries of emerging technologies that can help hospital leaders improve capital planning efforts in 2014.
The fourth topic presented in the publication was the use of copper surfaces within healthcare facilities. A background explaining the troubles associated with healthcare-associated infections is given along with a write-up on antimicrobial copper surfaces, including both scientific evidence and commentary on how strategically-implemented antimicrobial copper surfaces can have a positive influence within healthcare facilities.
ECRI Institute’s conclusions were drawn from utilising data from EPA testing protocols, a Department of Defense funded Clinical Trial, and an AHRQ funded Clinical Trial currently under way at UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
To read the document in its entirety, click here to access the ECRI Institute website.
Brief background on ECRI Institute:
Designated as an Evidence-Based Practice Center by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and listed as a federal Patient Safety Organization by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the ECRI Institute delivers publications that help decision makers ‘understand the hype vesus the evidence and the important issues to consider when deciding whether to be early adopters, middle adopters, or no-adopters.’
ECRI Institute claims to ‘have no vested interest in the technologies and issues we discuss other than to fulfill our mission to improve patient safety and cost-effectiveness of healthcare.’
It’s amazing how much plastic is used in healthcare, when you consider that, being a hydrocarbon, plastics are “food” for many bacteria.
Have a look at this (admittedly fairly old, but still quite relevant) paper, which examined bacterial survival on plastic surfaces and synthetic fabrics:
“The transfer of gram-positive bacteria, particularly multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), among patients is a growing concern. One critical aspect of bacterial transfer is the ability of the microorganism to survive on various common hospital surfaces….
..data in this study indicate that staphylococciand enterococci can survive for extended periods of time onmaterials commonly worn by patients and health care workers and on various other fabrics in the hospital environment.
…As with the staphylococci, the enterococci lived longer on polyester and polyethylene than on other materials.
….most of the bacteria tested in this study survived longer on polyester than on cotton.
…The polyester tested in this study is the material used at our hospital for privacy drapes, which are handled by both patients and staff when they are drawn around the patient’s bed. Staphylococci and enterococci survived for days to months on this fabric, thereby suggesting that such drapes could act as reservoirs for these bacteria.
Neely AN, Maley MP. Survival of Enterococci and Staphylococci on Hospital Fabrics and Plastic. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 2000;38(2):724-726
One of the UK’s leading microbiologists has claimed that hospital Estates & Facilities Managers are putting aesthetics & cost before patient safety, when specifying fixtures and fittings… even though the cost of these is rapidly eradicated by reduced infection costs.
York Health Economics Consortium, a global leader in healthcare-associated modelling, were commissioned by the International Copper Association to develop a fully-referenced cost-benefit model, to calculate the Return on Investment of installing Antimicrobial Copper.
The payback times demonstrated by the model back the findings of Professor Tom Elliott, Consultant Microbiologist at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and leader of the UK clinical trial of Antimicrobial Copper.
At an event last year, he noted: “For the one-off cost of installing Antimicrobial Copper surfaces, you get continuous microbial contamination reduction throughout the products’ life, and these materials are durable and long-lasting. The cost for a 20-bed medical ward was equivalent to the cost of just 1.5 infections”.
Antimicrobial copper touch surfaces installed in intensive care units (ICUs) pay for themselves in less than a year, according to a cost-benefit model developed by the York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) and commissioned by the International Copper Association. This is due to the resulting reduction in surface bioburden and hence healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs).