As an NHS watchdog advises more must be done to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections, two North American organisations have included antimicrobial copper on their horizon-scanning Top Ten Technologies watch lists for 2014, recognising the ever-growing body of evidence supporting copper's role in infection prevention and control.
17th April 2014
ECRI Institute - a world-leader in researching the best approaches to patient care - included antimicrobial copper in their 'Top 10 Hospital C-Suite Watch List 2014', targeting senior decision-makers within healthcare systems, providing them with summaries of emerging technologies that can help improve capital planning efforts throughout the year.
Similarly, the Canadian Network for Environmental Scanning in Health (CNESH) - leaders in healthcare horizon scanning - features copper in their 'Top 10 New & Emerging Health Technology Watch List: 2014'.
Clinical trials have shown that replacing frequently-touched surfaces in the healthcare environment with antimicrobial copper - i.e. copper and copper alloys that benefit from the metal's inherent antimicrobial properties - helps to reduce microbial contamination and can reduce incidences of healthcare-associated infections.
The ECRI report notes: 'Antimicrobial Copper touch surfaces can be incorporated into a wide variety of components... Copper's antimicrobial properties remain in effect for the product's lifetime and do not rely on coatings or impregnated surfaces that can wear off or wash away.'
More than 5,000 healthcare organisations worldwide rely on ECRI Institute's expertise in patient safety improvement, and in 1987 the World Health Organisation granted ECRI Institute the status of Collaborating Centre for Technology Assessment in recognition of its contribution and capabilities.
CNESH's Top 10 states: 'Touch surfaces made of antimicrobial copper and copper alloy (brasses and bronzes) appear to be a promising alternative that may improve the prevention and control of infection and, therefore, offer safer health care environments for patients.
'When incorporated on surface areas such as bedrails, handrails, door handles, work surfaces, intravenous (IV) poles, and washroom components, the natural antimicrobial properties of copper would reduce bacterial contamination, transmission, and rates of infection.'
Coinciding with this recognition of antimicrobial copper's contribution to infection prevention - at a time when the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence notes HCAI rates are still unacceptably high - the UK's 'epic3: National Evidence-Based Guidelines for Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections in NHS Hospitals in England' also includes copper, following a recent review of published research commissioned by the Department of Health. Studies reporting significant reductions in microbial burden of between 80% and 90% on high-touch surfaces made from copper alloys are described under 'Emerging Technologies'.
The supply chain is supporting the rising demand for antimicrobial copper products with an ever-growing range of durable, cost-effective and efficacious products. More information on these, and the science backing their use, is available on www.antimicrobialcopper.org.
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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.