Copper in hospital rooms may stop infections
Researchers installed copper alloy surfaces in the areas of the ICU room shown above.
May 14th, 2013
04:12 PM ET

Copper in hospital rooms may stop infections

Hospital-acquired infections are a huge problem in the United States. Wouldn't it be amazing if they could be prevented merely through the materials used in the hospital room?

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina explored covering key surfaces in hospital intensive care units in copper alloy, and found that this is an effective measure against the spread of some key types of bacterial infections. Their study is published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.


Up to $45 billion a year is spent on health care costs related to hospital-acquired infections, and an estimated 100,000 deaths occur annually because of them, the study authors wrote.

The antimicrobial properties of copper have been known for hundreds of years, said Michael Schmidt, the study's senior author - for at least 4,500 years. Ancient Indians realized that if water sits in a copper pot, this prevents illness, because the copper kills the bacteria. It's not used as often nowadays because molded plastics and stainless steel have taken over, being easy and in expensive.

How does it work? Copper is used to transmit electrons in walls for electricity. Similarly, bacteria will donate electrons to the copper metal, which places the organism in an electrical deficit. As a consequence, free radicals are generated inside the cell. The cell's proteins essentially get bleached, and its DNA get fractured. The electrical potential of the cell also gets collapsed.

"It's pretty hard to develop resistance from that multi-hit mechanism of action," Schmidt said.

How they did it

The study authors conducted the trial in the intensive care units of three different hospitals. Patients were randomly placed in copper or non-copper rooms. The study took place between July 2010 and June 2011.

Copper is an expensive material, so researchers carefully chose which parts of the ICU room should have the coating, based on the likelihood of a patient, staff member or visitor touching it. These included the rails that the patient uses to lift himself or herself out of bed, chair arms, the IV pole, the remote control and the tray that's used over the bed. On the whole, copper surfaces covered less than 10% of the room in the settings used in this study.

The researchers were most interested in the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). They compared the rates of hospital-acquired infections from any cause, or colonization with one of these two types of bacteria in the patients. Colonization means the bacteria is present on the person - such as on the skin, respiratory tract or gastrointestinal tract - without signs or symptoms of infection, said lead study author Dr. Cassandra Salgado.


Rooms with copper alloy surfaces were associated with lower infection and colonization for both of these types of bacteria than in normal ICU rooms. For hospital acquired infections, the rate was lowered from 0.081 to 0.034.


The challenge, of course, is investing the capital into buying new furniture and equipment for ICU rooms, Schmidt said. But he calculates that the cost of outfitting a room in this way would be recovered, in terms of money saved from preventing infections, after three months.

The researchers did not look at whether this intervention affects a patient's 30-day readmission rate, or whether it would work in a hospital room that's not part of an ICU.

Other researchers are looking at whether copper also stops carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a deadly, antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, Schmidt said.

"Bacteria have sex so quickly among their friends in their hospital environment, it may actually reduce the spread of CRE and other multi-drug resistant microbes, simply because the DNA is fractured," Schmidt said.

Some of the study authors reported financial connections to the Copper Development Industry, which is the market development, engineering and information services arm of the copper industry.

But this isn't the only research team that's looking into this question. A separate group at the University of California, Los Angeles, received a $2.5 million federal grant in 2012 to study the germ-fighting effectiveness of copper in hospitals. The cost effectiveness of that is still unclear, said Dr. Daniel Uslan, director of the antimicrobial stewardship program at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine.

"I suspect the costs will be favorable, but more data is needed and I hope our study at UCLA will answer this important question," he said in an e-mail. "We also don't yet know which surfaces in a room are most critical. Can you get by with just coating one or two items, or do all the touch surfaces need to be copper coated? Obviously the costs will change dramatically depending on the number of surfaces coated."

soundoff (685 Responses)
  1. RV Repair Seal Beach


    June 28, 2021 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mb Sprinter Repair Shop


    June 28, 2021 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Camper Repairs Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so much, However I am encountering issues with your RSS. I donít understand the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 28, 2021 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Los Angeles Sprinter Repair


    June 28, 2021 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Turbo Actuator Repair

    Right here is the right webpage for anyone who wishes to understand this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really will need toÖHaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic that's been discussed for many years. Wonderful stuff, just great!


    June 28, 2021 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. 2009 Stuck Intake Dodge Sprinter Repair


    June 28, 2021 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now


    June 28, 2021 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Repair Santa Ana

    I truly love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as Iím trying to create my own website and want to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Kudos!


    June 28, 2021 at 22:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Camper Repair Shop Near Me

    Excellent web site you've got here.. Itís hard to find high quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    June 28, 2021 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Los Angeles Sprinter Repair

    I like reading through a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!


    June 29, 2021 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Utility Van Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Repair Shops Nearby


    June 29, 2021 at 06:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Handicapped Van Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    There is definately a lot to find out about this topic. I really like all of the points you've made.


    June 29, 2021 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Shop Near My Location


    June 29, 2021 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dodge Sprinter Fuel Injector Repair

    I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I have got you book marked to look at new stuff you postÖ


    June 29, 2021 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Winnebago Van Repair Shop


    June 29, 2021 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Repair Shop Near My Location


    June 29, 2021 at 15:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Chassis Repair

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and also the rest of the site is very good.


    June 29, 2021 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Camper Repair Shops Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sprinter Van Ecu Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mercedes Sprinter Diesel Repair Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. حساب تجريبي للخيارات الثنائية الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

    This article will assist the internet visitors for building up new website or even a blog from start to end.

    June 29, 2021 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Camper Repair Near Me

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the largest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 30, 2021 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Camper Repair Shop Near Me


    June 30, 2021 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mercedes Sprinter Refrigerater Repair


    June 30, 2021 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair California

    I must thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this site. I am hoping to see the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own blog now 😉


    June 30, 2021 at 06:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repair Shop


    June 30, 2021 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Dodge Van Frame Repair Kit

    Great post! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    June 30, 2021 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Santa Ana

    I truly love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím trying to create my own site and would like to know where you got this from or what the theme is called. Kudos!


    June 30, 2021 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repair Fountain Valley


    June 30, 2021 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Sprinter Alignent Repair


    June 30, 2021 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.