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Copper Reduces Nosocomial Infections by 58%

Dec 11, 2013, 12:52 PM

in Dramatic Medicine

When I was teaching Public Health at the graduate level at UMDNJ, the notion of how nosocomial infections  spread was a major source of my research intrigue.  What constitutes a nosocomial infection?  Patient-to-patient MRSA?  The patient’s own flora?  A rouge and evil nurse?  The answer to all those questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

Today, the use of “nosocomial” to suggest “hospital-acquired” has been colloquially modified to the easier-to-remember acronym — “HAI” — meaning, “Hospital-Acquired Infection.”  I’ll stick with “nosocomial” thank you, because that is the proper terminology for the condition.

This week, I was interested to read the following from my Inbox:

New research has revealed that the use of Antimicrobial Copper surfaces in hospital rooms can reduce the number of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) by 58% as compared to patients treated in Intensive Care Units with non-copper touch surfaces. In the United States, 1 out of every 20 hospital patients develops an HAI, resulting in an estimated 100,000 deaths per year. Although numerous strategies have been developed to decrease these infections, Antimicrobial Copper is the only strategy that works continuously, has been scientifically proven to be effective and doesn’t depend on human behavior, according to a recently published study in the SHEA Journal of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Now that’s news!

Just changing hospital surfaces from stainless steel or plastic or formica to copper will reduce nosocomial infections by a whopping 50%!

I think the home copper-top-butcher-block will be the next big thing, along with copper everywhere in the kitchen and bath.  ”Copper isn’t just for cooking anymore!”

Here’s the JSTOR scientific abstract for — “Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology” — that provides the quantitative analysis of copper surfaces in hospitals:

Intensive care unit (ICU) patients are at further risk for HAI because of severity of illness, invasive procedures, and frequent interaction with healthcare workers (HCWs). Movement of organisms within hospitals is complex and may depend on microbes residing on environmental surfaces, indwelling devices, a patient’s own flora, and transiently colonized HCWs’ hands, clothing, and equipment. Environmental contamination may contribute to acquisition of microbes responsible for HAIs, and microbes can persist for weeks on materials used to fabricate objects in hospitals. Patients admitted to rooms where previous patients were infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), or Clostridium difficile are at increased risk for acquiring these organisms during their stay, suggesting persistence of these organisms in the environment.

Will copper clothing be next?  What about copper shoes?  I wonder if copper will become more valuable in the medical field than gold?  Will we return to copper pipes in our homes again — instead of PVC — for the clear health benefits of passive copper-fied water filtration?

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