New research has found that the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units (ICU) kill bacteria that can cause hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).
“The use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care unit rooms resulted in a 97 percent reduction of bacteria that cause hospital acquired infections and reduces the risk of acquiring an infection by 40 percent,” according to preliminary results of a multisite clinical trial in the United States.
The study was presented at the World Health Organization's first International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday.
The study backed the suggestion made by research teams at three U.S. hospitals four years ago: replacing the most heavily contaminated touch surfaces in ICUs with antimicrobial copper will control bacteria growth and cut down on infection rates.
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease, strokes and cancer, Reuters reported.
Nearly one in every 20 hospitalized U.S. patients have a chance of developing an HAI, resulting in 100,000 lives lost and cost $45 billion each year, estimates Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Michael Schmidt, Professor and Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at MUSC, who presented the results at ICPIC, said, Bacteria present on ICU room surfaces are probably responsible for up to 80 percent of patient infections, demonstrating how critical it is to keep hospitals clean. The copper objects used in the clinical trial lowered microbial levels and supplemented cleaning protocols.
Copper's rapid destruction of pathogens could prevent mutational resistance developing and also help reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance genes to receptive and potentially more virulent organisms, said Professor Bill Keevil, Head of the Microbiology Group and Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton.
Extensive laboratory tests have demonstrated copper's antimicrobial efficacy against key organisms responsible for these infections, and clinical trials around the world are now reporting on its efficacy in busy, real-world environments.
“The copper objects used in the clinical trial supplemented cleaning protocols, lowered microbial levels, and resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the number of infections contracted by patients treated in those rooms.
Researchers at the three hospitals involved in the trial - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, both in Charleston, South Carolina - replaced commonly-touched items such as bed rails, overbed tray tables, nurse call buttons and IV poles with antimicrobial copper versions.
The study, funded by the US Department of Defense, was designed to determine the efficacy of antimicrobial copper in reducing the level of pathogens in hospital rooms, and whether such a reduction would translate into a lower rate of infection.