Copper pens help stop spread of germs

A New study has shown that using copper pens in a busy critical care unit significantly reduces the risk of recontaminating healthcare workers' hands. The research was carried out at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) following an earlier trial that demonstrated that copper-touch surfaces carried fewer micro-organisms compared with standard aluminium, chrome-plate and plastic surfaces. In the latest study, nursing staff in two critical care units were given the same design of pen made from either stainless steel or brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. Contamination on each type of pen was then measured and compared at the end of a 12.5-hour shift and again after sitting at room temperature for a further 11 hours, equivalent to the start of the next shift. The study found that, at the end of the working shift, 52% of the brass pens were contamination-free, compared to 32% of the stainless steel pens. Most significantly, the total contamination on the brass pens was 87.3% less than on the stainless steel pens. After a further 11 hours at room temperature, 80% of the brass pens were contamination free, compared to 28% of the stainless steel pens and the total contamination on the brass pens was 94.8% less. Clinical research scientist, Dr Anna Casey, who led the study, said: "Our findings clearly demonstrate that the use of copper-containing pens significantly reduces the level of microbial contamination. Thus, copper pens may provide a tool to prevent re-inoculation of decontaminated hands."

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