Professor highlights role of copper in infection prevention and control

University of Southampton researcher addresses German conference to recommend copper surfaces in medical environments

Trials are continuing to support the use of copper touch surfaces for infection control in hospitals

Professor Bill Keevil, chairman of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, addressed hygiene experts at the Congress of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene this week, highlighting copper's role in the 'constant arms race' for new solutions to the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new viral strains.

The biannual Congress is a prime event for infection control specialists, attracting more than 1,500 members of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene who are key opinion leaders in their field.

Professor Keevil's presentation covered the deployment of touch surfaces made from solid copper or copper alloys, which he has shown in laboratory tests to rapidly and completely kill a wide range of bacteria, viruses and fungi.

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

University of Southampton research has also explored the contribution antimicrobial copper surfaces could make to reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The rapid-kill mechanism ensures DNA that can confer resistance does not pass between bacteria on copper surfaces.

In his presentation, Professor Keevil also discussed a multi-centre, Department of Defense-funded US trial - building on UK research - that demonstrated antimicrobial copper surfaces in an intensive care unit room reduced a patient's risk of acquiring a healthcare-associated infection by more than 50%.

He concluded: “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.”

Professor Martin Exner, president of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene, added: “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.”