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Application of copper to prevent and control infection. Where are we now?

  • J. O'Gorman
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author. Address: Department of Clinical Microbiology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland. Tel.: +353 1 8093320; fax: +353 1 8092871.
    Affiliations
    Department of Microbiology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

    Department of Clinical Microbiology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
    Search for articles by this author
  • H. Humphreys
    Affiliations
    Department of Microbiology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

    Department of Clinical Microbiology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
    Search for articles by this author

      Summary

      Background

      The antimicrobial effect of copper has long been recognized and has a potential application in the healthcare setting as a mechanism to reduce environmental contamination and thus prevent healthcare-associated infection (HCAI).

      Aim

      To review the rationale for copper use, the mechanism of its antimicrobial effect, and the evidence for its efficacy.

      Methods

      A PubMed search of the published literature was performed.

      Findings

      Extensive laboratory investigations have been carried out to investigate the biocidal activity of copper incorporated into contact surfaces and when impregnated into textiles and liquids. A limited number of clinical trials have been performed, which, although promising, leave significant questions unanswered. In particular there is a lack of consensus on minimum percentage copper alloys required for effectiveness, the impact of organic soiling on the biocidal effect of copper, and the best approach to routine cleaning of such surfaces. Limited information is available on the ability of copper surfaces to eradicate spores of Clostridium difficile.

      Conclusion

      Additional studies to demonstrate that installing copper surfaces reduces the incidence of HCAI are required and the cost-effectiveness of such intervention needs to be assessed. Further research in a number of key areas is required before the potential benefits of using copper routinely in the clinical setting to prevent and control infection can be confirmed and recommended.

      Keywords

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