Originally published April 1 2009
Copper Fittings Could Eliminate Superbugs in Hospitals
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Replacing stainless steel hospital fixtures with copper ones could dramatically hamper the survival and spread of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, according to a study conducted by researchers from Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, England.
In an experiment funded by the copper industry, the researchers replaced a toilet seat, an entrance door push plate, and a series of taps in one ward of the hospital with copper equivalents. Twice a day for 10 weeks, these copper fixtures were swabbed and analyzed for microorganisms, as were regular fixtures elsewhere in the ward. The researchers found that the copper fixtures contained 95 percent fewer organisms than conventional ones.
"The findings of 90 to 95 percent killing of those organisms, even after a busy day on a medical ward with items being touched by numerous people, is remarkable," said lead researcher Tom Elliott. "I have been a consultant microbiologist for several decades. This is the first time I have seen anything like copper in terms of the effect it will have in the environment. It may well offer us another mechanism for trying to defeat the spread of infection."
Copper is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, and is a common ingredient in certain antiseptic creams. Stainless steel, in contrast, in many ways provides an ideal home for bacteria.
"The stainless steel, to the eye, looks a nice, bright, clean surface," said Bill Keevil of Southampton University. "But stainless steel can scratch and so we get, effectively, microscopic valleys where bacteria can hide in the valleys."
The problem of valuing aesthetics over sanitation is widespread. Prior to the start of the current study, many of the brass fixtures at Selly Oak Hospital were covered in chrome "to make them look nice," Elliot said, thus countering "any properties in the copper alloy which could kill bugs."
Sources for this story include: www.telegraph.co.uk; www.findingdulcinea.com.
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