Health Protection Scotland Recognises Role of Copper Touch Surfaces in Environmental Decontamination

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A new review by Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has assessed the evidence for antimicrobial copper surfaces in healthcare environments and made recommendations for their use to help boost infection prevention and control.

9 September 2017

The review, entitled Literature Review and Practice Recommendations: Existing and emerging technologies used for decontamination of the healthcare environment - Antimicrobial Copper Surfaces, was developed by the HPS Infection Control Team and covers the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces for decontamination of the healthcare environment and reusable non-invasive patient care equipment.

The review acknowledges the risk of acquiring and transmitting pathogens from contaminated surfaces and the opportunity to boost sub-optimal cleaning by installing surfaces made from antimicrobial copper. “Antimicrobial copper surfaces provide an example of a novel technology that may supplement standard cleaning practices and potentially further reduce the transmission of nosocomial pathogens.”

The review incorporated the results of 18 articles from 14 studies, with the evidence rated predominantly Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) level 2+ (moderate-quality), with two studies classified as SIGN level 1+ (high-quality). The findings were used to develop a Grade C recommendation for clinical practice:

“Copper alloy environmental and equipment surfaces may be considered for high-touch sites (e.g. bed rails) as an additional measure to supplement existing procedures for routine cleaning but does not replace the requirement for routine cleaning to be performed.”

According to the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, Grade C evidence is “A body of evidence including studies rated as 2+, directly applicable to the target population and demonstrating overall consistency of results.”

In addition to this recommendation, several Good Practice Points were made covering costs, cleaning, adverse health effects reporting (noting antimicrobial copper surfaces appear to pose little risk of skin irritation, sensitisation or adverse events (e.g. allergic reactions)) and durability.

The review concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of copper oxide-impregnated surfaces and textiles.

Angela Vessey, Copper Alliance’s Antimicrobial Copper Initiative Global Team Leader, welcomes these guidelines, saying, “They will help busy healthcare professionals to assess the benefits of incorporating hi-touch copper surfaces in their facilities to help protect their patients from pathogens.

Copper Alliance provides supporting information on practicalities and economics of deploying antimicrobial copper touch surfaces including identifying surfaces to prioritise for upgrade, guidance on cleaning and where to source approved products that meet the requirements of the Copper Alliance Industry Stewardship Scheme, recognised by the Cu+ Mark.”

Reference:

Decontamination technologies literature review - Antimicrobial Copper Surfaces, August 2017

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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