Leading economist Jim O’Neill—who recently headed a review on antimicrobial resistance for the UK government—recognised the use of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces to help prevent the spread of bacteria in healthcare facilities. The comments formed part of an article written for The Guardian on globalisation.
19 January 2017
O’Neill says: ‘When I led a review on antimicrobial resistance, I learned that copper has powerful antibacterial properties and is an ideal material for use in healthcare facilities where bacteria often spread. This means that copper producers such as Chile, Australia, and Canada can improve global health—and boost exports—by introducing affordable copper infrastructure into hospitals and other clinical settings around the world.’
The O'Neill Report—Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally: Final Report and Recommendations—sponsored by the UK Government and the Wellcome Trust, was published in May 2016. It sets out the Review of Antimicrobial Resistance's final recommendations for a global approach to addressing antimicrobial resistance. With an estimated 700,000 people dying every year from drug-resistant strains of common bacterial infections, it warns that the problem is already severe and, without action, will only worsen, taking a heavy toll on lives and economies across the world.
Decreasing demand for antibiotics—so currently-available drugs last longer—and increasing the number of effective antimicrobial drugs to treat resistant infections are the two main areas for attention proposed. Improving hygiene and preventing the spread of infection is one of the steps indicated to reduce the demand for antibiotics and one of the most fundamental steps is to break the chain of transmission. The healthcare setting is deemed high risk for the spread of bacterial infections and the report urges a return to the pre-antibiotic era, when infection prevention was recognised as a priority as cures were limited.
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.