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New research: Copper kills superbugs and other hospital-acquired infections

Thursday, April 11, 2013 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: MRSA, copper, infections

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(NaturalNews) Scientists have found there's a way to dramatically prevent serious, life-threatening infections-- including those caused by especially dangerous and hard-to-treat superbugs. It doesn't involve Big Pharma drugs or toxin-laden chemical treatments. Instead, the germ-busting substance is the metal copper. A new study has revealed that using copper surfaces in hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) can slash the number of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) by almost 60 percent.

To understand how important this news is, consider these facts: HAIs frequently contaminate items in hospital rooms and spread from transfer from patient and/or healthcare work to patient. Common infectious agents that endanger hospital patients by spreading this way include the antibiotic resistant superbugs known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). HAIs are so widespread that one out of every 20 hospital patients develops one of these infections, resulting in about 100,000 deaths per year and adding an estimated $45 billion to healthcare costs.

All sorts of strategies have been tried to halt HAI but copper is the only one that's been found to work consistently and doesn't depend on human behavior.

Critically ill patients protected by copper

The new copper study, just published in the May issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, was carried out in the ICUs of three major hospitals: The Medical University of South Carolina, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina. ICUs were used for the study because patients in these rooms are at extreme risk from the consequences of any infections due to the severity of their illnesses, invasive procedures and treatments they are subjected to, and frequent interaction with healthcare workers who can spread germs accidentally.

Both traditional patient rooms and rooms with copper surfaces at each institution were cleaned using regular methods, but items such as bed rails, tables, IV poles, and nurse call buttons were made solely from copper-based metals in half of the ICU rooms studied. ICU patients were randomly placed in rooms with or without copper alloy surfaces. In all, a total of 650 patients and 16 rooms (8 with copper surfaced objects and 8 standard non-copper containing rooms) were studied between July 12, 2010 and June 14, 2011.

Copper continuously kills pathogens

The number of patients who developed HAI and/or colonization with MRSA or VRE was significantly lower among patients in rooms with copper surfaces compared to those in traditional rooms. The researchers say that's because copper surfaces have an inherent ability to continuously kill disease-causing microbes on surfaces.

"Patients who suffer HAIs often stay in the hospital longer, incur greater costs, and unfortunately suffer a greater likelihood of dying while hospitalized," Cassandra D. Salgado, MD, Associate Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and lead author of the study, said in a media statement. "Our study found that placement of items with copper surfaces into ICU rooms as an additional measure to routine infection control practices could reduce the risk of HAI as well as colonization with multi-drug resistant microbes."

NaturalNews previously reported how hospitals' attempts to reduce the spread of superbugs using anti-microbial wipes may have made the problem of HAIs even worse. Scientist Gareth Williams, a microbiologist at Cardiff University, said the wipes, which are routinely used in hospitals, not only don't do a thorough job but tend to carry and spread superbugs to other surfaces.

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About the author:
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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