Antimicrobial Touch Surfaces

Making touch surfaces actively and continuously kill microbes that cause infections.

Every day, we come into contact with a variety of touch surfaces. From public transport grab rails to doorknobs, keyboards, and telephones, touch is a fundamental part of our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, these same objects we touch are also touched by many others. Frequent contact can leave behind infectious organisms on these surfaces, putting the next user at risk. Harmful organisms can survive on surfaces like stainless steel and plastic for days and even months, still posing a threat to human health1. And once you know that 80% of infectious diseases are transferred by touch, the need to clean surfaces becomes evident 2. However, cleaning the surfaces is only part of the solution. Even strict hand washing and disinfection protocols recommended by the National Health Service or the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are not enough to prevent infections in hospitals. What is needed is a touch surface that continually kills the microbes that cause infections and illness. In the past, silver-containing coatings have been tried, and found inadequate as they only protect the product itself and not the person using it.

Now, a new category of touch surface materials has become available: antimicrobial copper. It is the only solid touch surface material that is allowed to make public health claims in the US. Antimicrobial copper is the most effective antimicrobial touch surface material, killing more than 99.9% of bacteria3 within two hours of exposure. No other material, such as silver-containing coatings, comes close.

Peer reviewed scientific publications show antimicrobial copper to be effective against bacteria, viruses, fungi and moulds, including MRSA, Influenza A (H1N1), Norovirus, Coronavirus, Clostridium difficile and VRE.

Further work4 has demonstrated that antimicrobial copper outperforms two commercially available silver-containing coatings under typical indoor conditions.

Clinical research has shown significant and continuous activity of copper and copper alloys in the hospital environment.

A study5 on a busy medical ward at Selly Oak Hospital, UK, showed a 90–100% reduction in contamination on antimicrobial copper surfaces compared to surfaces made of conventional materials.

A multi-centre US study showed a median reduction in bacterial contamination of 83% on 6-near patient antimicrobial copper surfaces compared to standard surfaces in ICUs6. The study reported an associated reduction in HCAIs of 58%7.

Antimicrobial copper surfaces are a supplement to, and not a substitute for, standard infection control practices.

Copper and copper alloys are engineering materials that are durable, colourful and recyclable and are widely available in various product forms suitable for a range of manufacturing purposes. Copper and its alloys offer a suite of materials for designers of functional, sustainable and cost-effective products.

Copper and certain copper alloys have intrinsic antimicrobial properties (so-called ‘Antimicrobial Copper’) and products made from these materials have an additional, secondary benefit of contributing to hygienic design. Products made from Antimicrobial Copper are a supplement to, not a substitute for standard infection control practices. It is essential that current hygiene practices are continued, including those related to the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.

References

  1. How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces?  Kramer et al. A systematic review. BMC Infectious Diseases 6:130. 2006.
     
  2. The Secret Life of Germs. P Tierno. Atria Books: New York, NY, USA.  2001.
     
  3. Antimicrobial Copper is the only solid metal surface material to have efficacy data3 independently verified through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration which supports the claim to continuously kill more than 99.9% of the bacteria that cause HCAIs within two hours of contact. Organisms tested are MRSA, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli O157:H7 and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis.
    Antimicrobial Regulatory Efficacy Testing of Solid Copper Alloy Surfaces in the USA. H T Michels and D G Anderson, pp 185-190, Metal Ions in Biology and Medicine: Vol 10, Eds Ph Collery, I Maymard, T Theophanides, L Khassanova, T Collery. John Libbey Eurotext, Paris © 2008
     
  4. Effects of temperature and humidity on the efficacy of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus challenged antimicrobial materials containing silver and copper. H T Michels, J O Noyce and C W Keevil, Letters in Applied Microbiology, 49 (2009) 191-195.

  5. Role of copper in reducing hospital environment contamination. A L Casey, D Adams, T J Karpanen, P A Lambert, B D Cookson, P Nightingale, L Miruszenko, R Shillam, P Christian and T S J Elliott, J Hosp Infect (2009).

  6. Sustained Reduction of Microbial Burden on Common Hospital Surfaces through Introduction of Copper. Michael G Schmidt, Hubert H Attaway, Peter A Sharpe, Joseph John Jr, Kent A Sepkowitz, Andrew Morgan, Sarah E Fairey, Susan Singh, Lisa L Steed, J Robert Cantey, Katherine D Freeman, Harold T Michels and Cassandra D Salgado. J Clin Microbiol July 2012 vol. 50 no. 7-2217-2223. Published ahead of print 2 May 2012, doi: 10.1128/JCM.01032-12.

  7. Copper Surfaces Reduce the Rate of Healthcare-Acquired Infections in the Intensive Care Unit. Cassandra D Salgado, MD; Kent A Sepkowitz, MD; Joseph F John, MD; J Robert Cantey, MD; Hubert H Attaway, MS; Katherine D Freeman, Dr PH; Peter A Sharpe, MBA; Harold T Michels, PhD; Michael G Schmidt, PhD. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology , Vol. 34, No. 5, Special Topic Issue: The Role of the Environment in Infection Prevention (May 2013), pp. 479-486.

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