Use of copper touch surfaces can reduce infection, says UK expert

They kill bacteria while helping to reduce spread of antibiotic-resistant bugs

Professor Bill Keevil with a copper coupon in the laboratory

A hygiene expert from the University of Southampton in the UK has highlighted the role of copper in reducing infection in healthcare settings.

Professor Bill Keevil, Chair in Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton, speaking at the Congress of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene this week, which attracted more than 1,500 delegates, highlighted copper’s role in the search for new solutions to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new viral strains.

Keevil said in laboratory tests the use of touch surfaces made from solid copper or copper alloys (antimicrobial copper) rapidly killed a range of bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Research at the University of Southampton has also explored the contribution antimicrobial copper surfaces could make to reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, he said.

Keevil also discussed a multi-centre, Department of Defense-funded US trial – building on UK research – which demonstrated that antimicrobial copper surfaces in an ICU room reduced a patient’s risk of acquiring a healthcare-associated infection by >50%.

‘The incorporation of copper alloy touch surfaces into the healthcare environment provides a valuable adjunct to current hygiene control and cleaning practices, where the latter may only happen once or twice a day,’ he said.

Professor Martin Exner, President of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene, observed: ‘Conventional hygiene strategies such as washing your hands more often and more thoroughly will not be enough in the future. They must be supplemented by additional strategies. Potential transmission channels for nosocomial infections in patient environments must also be kept under control, and copper can play an important part in this process.’