Healthcare

Antimicrobial Copper is the most effective antimicrobial touch surface
Antimicrobial copper surfaces in a hospital environment

Why Antimicrobial Copper?

Approximately four million people in the EU acquire a healthcare-associated infection each year, from which approximately 37,000 die.  Antimicrobial Copper kills the microbes that cause these infections.

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) place a significant socioeconomic burden on people in all regions of the world.  In the UK, 300,000 people acquire infections in hospitals each year, resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths. In addition to the immeasurable personal costs, the Office for National Statistics estimates the direct cost of HCAIs to be £1 billion  per year.

These infections, such as MRSA and C. difficile, are caused by microbes that thrive on objects we touch every day. Antibiotic-resistant organisms have spread from the healthcare environment to schools, homes and mass transit. Despite aggressive hand washing campaigns and routine cleaning, infection rates remain unacceptably high and more needs to be done to lower the risk of acquiring an infection and improve patient safety.

Now there is a new weapon in the fight against the microbes that cause these deadly infections: Antimicrobial Copper.

Copper and copper alloys are engineering materials that are durable, colourful, recyclable and widely available in various product forms suitable for a range of manufacturing purposes. They offer a suite of options for designers of functional, sustainable and cost-effective products. In addition to these well-known properties, copper and certain copper alloys have intrinsic antimicrobial properties (collectively called ‘Antimicrobial Copper’) and products made from these materials offer the secondary benefit of contributing to hygienic design.

With broad-spectrum and rapid efficacy, Antimicrobial Copper has been shown to kill pathogenic microbes in the laboratory and in the clinical environment, significantly and continuously reducing bacteria.  With recent clinical trial data showing key touch surfaces made from Antimicrobial Copper can reduce a patient's risk of acquiring a hospital infection, it has been shown that these antimicrobial products, as part of contemporary hospital architecture and design,  can improve infection prevention and control in hospitals.

It is important to note that 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.

Antimicrobial Copper was the first touch surface material to have efficacy data independently verified through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration, which supports the claim to continuously kill more than 99.9% of the bacteria that cause HCAIs within two hours of contact.

The supporting science has proven Antimicrobial Copper to be the most effective antimicrobial touch surface and has sparked a global campaign advocating the use of these materials to combat infectious microbes in healthcare facilities, mass transit, educational institutions and beyond.

Three main characteristics make Antimicrobial Copper the most effective touch surface material:

Continuously kills microbes

  • Efficacy as an antimicrobial is scientifically proven to be far more effective than silver-containing coatings
  • Proven to continuously kill the microbes that cause infections
  • The first solid antimicrobial touch surface approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Never wears out

  • Continuous and ongoing antimicrobial action
  • Remains effective even after repeated wet and dry abrasion and re-contamination
  • Natural oxidation does not impair efficacy.

Safe to use

  • Not harmful to people or the environment
  • Inherently antimicrobial, no chemicals added
  • Completely recyclable.

Antimicrobial Copper for HVAC

Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are believed to be factors in over 60% of all sick building situations and can also benefit from Antimicrobial Copper components such as filters, cooling fins, drip pans and tubes which eliminate bacterial and fungal growths that typically thrive on damp internal surfaces. This can improve the system’s thermal and electrical efficiency as well as, potentially, the resultant air quality. Apart from commercial and public buildings, controlled air spaces such as operating theatres and food preparation areas may especially benefit.

Antimicrobial Copper for Food Processing

The incidence of foodborne infections and high spoilage rates suggests that current measures are not always effective in minimising contamination of the world’s food supplies. Hygienic surfaces, made with copper and copper alloys, can be used in foodprocessing facilities to help reduce the risk of cross-contamination of moulds and even dangerous foodborne pathogens.

Copper has an intrinsic ability to destroy these dangerous microbes quickly at both refrigeration temperature (4°C) and room temperature (20°C). Suggested applications include dry food contact surfaces (e.g. mixers, transfer chutes, conveyors and work tables) and touch surfaces (e.g. door furniture and taps).

Cu+  Stewardship Scheme

The Antimicrobial Copper brand and Cu+ mark are used by leading manufacturers of hospital equipment, furniture and fittings to indicate that their products are made from Antimicrobial Copper.

The use of the Antimicrobial Copper brand and Cu+ mark by an organisation indicates that a Copper Centre, on behalf of International Copper Association, Ltd, has granted permission to do so based upon adherence to strict usage rules. These rules guide that organisation’s understanding of the underlying technology and the way they promote, advise and deploy it in line with existing research, regulatory and legislative requirements.

Copper has an intrinsic ability to destroy these dangerous microbes quic
Related ResourcesHere are related resources.  To browse and search all resources, visit the Resource Library.
    YHEC Business Case Model User Guide
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    User Guide for the York Health Economics Consortium cost-benefit model.
    Risk Mitigation of Hospital Acquired Infections with Copper
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    Webcast featuring Initial study results from a comprehensive, multi-site clinical trial on antimicrobial copper surfaces in the US, presented at the World Health Organization's 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva, Switzerland on 1st July 2011 by Dr M G Schmidt, Copper Touch Surface Initiative Microbiology and Immunology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA.
    Pub 220 - Antimicrobial Copper: A Specifier's Guide
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, healthcare-associated infections, infections, products, touch surface
    While the antimicrobial properties of copper have been known and appreciated for centuries, it is only recently that the clinical benefits of copper touch surfaces have been evaluated. Although there are more than 200 papers published on laboratory and clinical research, there is a lack of practical information in the public domain to help specifiers understand where and how to deploy copper to improve environmental hygiene in healthcare facilities. This simple guide provides information on which surfaces to prioritise for upgrade, how to recognise efficacious products and where to source these. October 2014. 4pp.
    Pub 219 - Antimicrobial Copper: A Hospital Manager's Guide
    Healthcare
    touch surface, healthcare-associated infections, antimicrobial, hospital, infections
    Upgrading selected touch surfaces to Antimicrobial Copper is a simple but effective measure that is shown to reduce costly infections, freeing up beds and clinical resources and improving patient care. After a very short initial payback period, significant long-term savings are possible. 2014. 4pp.
    Pub 215 - Stop the Spread of HCAIs - Factsheet
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    antimicrobial, care homes, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, touch surface
    Deadly healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) are a major threat in European hospitals. Learn about an additional line of defence that goes further than hand washing - Antimicrobial Copper. 2013. 1pp.
    Pub 214 - Antimicrobial Copper Alloys: Guidance for Selection
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, care homes, design, designer, hospital, property
    This publication offers designers, manufacturers and specifiers guidance on identifying the most appropriate copper alloy for a product. The guide features a table of commonly available alloys, representing the different copper-alloy families, listing compositions and properties and ordered by colour. 2013. 16pp.
    Pub 213 - Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfection
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, surfaces, touch surface
    This document gives guidance on cleaning and disinfection of antimicrobial copper surfaces. November 2013, 1pp.
    Pub 212 - Near-patient Antimicrobial Copper Touch Surfaces for Infection Control: The Business Case
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, care homes, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, pathogenic microbes, touch surface
    An introduction to the business case for installing antimicrobial copper touch surfaces in healthcare facilities, showing a worked example of an ICU, based on a fully-referenced cost-benefit model developed for hospital managers by York Health Economics Consortium. October 2012, revised April 2013. 2pp.
    Pub 211 - Antimicrobial Copper Cu+ Product Directory
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, manufacturer, products
    A printable directory of component manufacturers, suppliers and service providers who have been approved to use the Cu+ brand. 100pp. October 2014.
    Pub 210 - Antimicrobial Copper Installations: Case Studies - Healthcare
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, healthcare-associated infections, installation, touch surface
    A collection of case studies featuring antimicrobial copper healthcare installations from around the world. 16pp. November 2014.
    Pub 204 - The Potential Role of Antimicrobial Copper in Food Processing Applications
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, applications, health, pathogenic microbes, science
    Recent science shows that copper has an intrinsic ability to rapidly inactivate dangerous foodborne pathogens (including E. coli 157:H7, Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enteritidis) at both refrigerated and room temperature. Copper and copper alloys could therefore help to reduce the incidence of cross-contamination in food processing facilities. May 2010. 2pp.
    Pub 203 - Antimicrobial Copper - Introducing a New Category of Touch Surface Material
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, care homes, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, pathogenic microbes, touch surface
    Introductory brochure for infection control professionals outlining the antimicrobial efficacy, key characteristics and healthcare applications of Antimicrobial Copper, proven to reduce surface contamination in clinical environments, therefore offering an additional measure to help reduce the risk from pathogenic microbes. May 2010. 16pp.
    Pub 202 - Practical Aspects of Reducing Bioburden with Copper: Clinical Case Study: Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, clinical trial, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, infections, installation, pathogenic microbes, touch surface
    The clinical trial at Selly Oak Hospital demonstrated a 90-100% reduction in contamination on copper-containing vs standard surfaces. The experience of fitting out the test ward with copper-containing products has made a major contribution to the understanding of the practical application of the science. October 2009. 4pp.
    Pub 201 - Antimicrobial Copper - FAQs
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, healthcare-associated infections, infections, pathogenic microbes, touch surface
    A brochure answering frequently asked questions regarding antimicrobial copper. Updated May 2014. 8pp.
    Pub 200 - Comparing Antimicrobial Efficacy of Copper and Silver for Interior Touch Surface Applications
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, clinical trial, healthcare-associated infections, study, touch surface
    Silver and copper have been used for their antimicrobial properties for centuries. This one page summary reports on how a study published in Letters in Applied Microbiology answers the question of whether these applications work under real-life conditions. October 2009. 1pp.
    Pub 198 - The Benefits of Designing with Antimicrobial Copper Alloys
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, care homes, design, designer, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, infections, touch surface
    Introductory brochure for architects and designers providing an overview on using the inherent antimicrobial property of copper to design out infection in critical environments such as hospitals and care homes, where touch surfaces can act as reservoirs for dangerous germs. Updated May 2013. 2pp.
    Pub 196 - Reducing the Risk of Healthcare Associated Infections - The Role of Copper Touch Surfaces
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, care homes, efficacy, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, touch surface
    A report summarising the scientific evidence on the antimicrobial efficacy of copper and copper alloys in the laboratory and clinical environment. Also provides an introduction to the practical implementation of copper touch surfaces in healthcare facilities. Revised October 2014. 16pp.
    CPD: innovative and cost-effective materials for healthcare design
    Architecture, Healthcare
    antimicrobial, clinical trial, cost-effective, design, healthcare-associated infections, hospital
    A RIBA-accredited CPD webcast that explores the role of antimicrobial copper within good healthcare design, with particular focus on the risks that touch surfaces present.
    Antimicrobial Copper Demonstration
    Healthcare
    antimicrobial, pathogenic microbes, science, study
    Short webcast giving some background information on Keevil's antimicrobial tests and including a time-lapse sequence to show copper's antimicrobial effect against E. coli compared to stainless steel (2 mins). March 2008
    Antimicrobial Copper and Copper Alloys
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, design, designer, hospital
    Introductory presentation with narration, notes and links to further information, aimed at designers. Delivered at Materials and Design Exchange workshop, 'Bugz - Antimicrobial Materials and Coatings', 31st October 2007.
Related News

Professor Bill Keevil demonstrates copper's powerful and rapid antimicrobial activity in his laboratory at the University of Southampton.
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