Chilean Family Medical Accommodation Uses Copper to Combat Infection

Fundacion Nuestros Hijos (FNH)

The antimicrobial efficacy of copper is being introduced to Chilean facilities that provide a temporary home for families of children undergoing treatment for cancer. Frequently-touched surfaces in one facility have been covered with adhesive copper foil, with two further installations planned.

27 June 2017

Fundación Nuestros Hijos (FNH) is an NGO that offers comprehensive assistance to children suffering from cancer, and their families. As part of their infection prevention and control measures, they engaged local company CUNOV to apply their copper technology to existing surfaces identified as the most frequently touched, and thus those posing the highest risk from the spread of infections.

In Phase One of the project, 19 rooms were outfitted with copper, as were common areas of FNH’s Transient Home for Families, its adjacent premises and offices. Before the project, 49 of the 545 surfaces to be covered were tested for bioburden. Five months later, those same surfaces—now covered in copper—were tested again, and their average bioburden was reported to be 78% lower.

‘Children with cancer are in an immunosuppressed state, either due to the disease itself, or the treatment,’ explains Dr Marcela Zubieta, President of FNH. ‘Therefore, they have a greater risk of acquiring infections that could cost them their lives in just a few hours.’

‘Copper is capable of destroying multi-drug resistant micro-organisms,’ adds Dr Tamara Viviani, Consultant Infectologist for CUNOV. ‘When a patient is admitted to an intensive care unit, a burn centre or an oncology ward, they have about a 1 in 4 chance of acquiring an infection.’

In the next project phases, copper will be added to paediatric oncology units in two public hospitals, an outpatient clinic and a new-build rehabilitation centre: Centro de Rehabilitación Oncológico de Fundación Nuestros Hijos. CROFNH is an ambitious project with the goal achieving rehabilitation rate of greater than 80% for children with cancer who present physical or cognitive conditions caused by their cancer, or its treatment. Copper will form part of a bundle of strict infection control measures aimed at protecting vulnerable patients, as well as staff and visitors.

CUNOV has been invited to share their experience with this innovation at the Childhood Cancer International 2017 Latin American/Caribbean Conference, taking place in the Dominican Republic 23–25 August. Childhood Cancer International is the world’s largest patient support organisation for childhood cancer, with its Latin branch representing 35 related organisations in 17 countries.

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.

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