November 15, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U .S. Dept. of Defense Continues Study of Copper as Effective Means of Reducing Hospital-Acquired Infections and Improving Indoor Air Quality
NEW YORK - Congressionally appropriated funds to continue clinical trails determining the antimicrobial effectiveness of copper, brass and bronze have been awarded to the Copper Development Association, announced CDA President Andrew G. Kireta Sr.
Of the two studies funded by these appropriations, one is focused on the ability of copper alloy surfaces to kill deadly pathogens and impede cross-contamination. The monies will be used to complete the pilot conversion of touch surfaces in healthcare facilities in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina, where extensive clinical trials have begun.
The other, which follows the same premise, is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of copper components in heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in reducing the incidence of harmful microbes that spread throughout buildings and other indoor air environments.
Since these studies began, the increasing concern over microbial growth on common touch surfaces has moved beyond healthcare facilities and into the community. In fact, recent cases have been diagnosed in students at many schools across the country.
According to Dr. Harold Michels, vice president of Technical and Information Services for CDA and the studies' principal investigator, "This decision allows the trials to move into the next, critical phase of study. We fully expect our work will demonstrate that the utilization of antimicrobial copper alloy surfaces will be an effective weapon in the battle against hospital- and community-acquired infections and, when used in conjunction with good clinical hygiene, will help greatly to reduce the spread of certain virulent, antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7."
The clinical trials follow peer-reviewed research conducted at the University of Southampton in the U.K. proving copper, brass and bronze can quickly and efficiently eradicate several different pathogens which are the source of many hospital-acquired infections. Estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that infections acquired in U.S. hospitals affect some two million individuals every year, resulting in nearly 100,000 deaths annually and costing the healthcare industry some $30 billion. It is widely believed those numbers will grow, unless more effective measures are implemented.
The touch surfaces trials will determine how well natural copper, brass and bronze surfaces mitigate infectious microbes, decrease cross-contamination and ultimately help reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired infections in patients. Rates of infection are being measured using three indicator organisms: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) and Acinetobacter baumannii. The surfaces involved in the study are typically made of coated carbon steel, aluminum, stainless steel or plastic, which have little or no effect in controlling pathogens.
The studies are being conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medial Center, both in Charleston, South Carolina. Previous studies were conducted by ATS Labs in Eagan, Minnesota, under test protocols established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They show solid copper alloys are more than 99.9% effective on five pathogens commonly found in healthcare facilities. The tests have been submitted to EPA as part of a registration process to secure approval for making human health claims for the copper metals.
The companion study compares copper air-conditioning system components, including heat exchangers and drip pans, with components made of aluminum as to their ability to control the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi. The trials are designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of copper surfaces in reducing the colonization of HVAC systems by harmful microbes and reducing exposure to these organisms throughout the buildings served by the systems.
Laboratory studies are taking place at the University of South Carolina in the Arnold School of Public Health. Field trials will be performed at the Moncrief Army Community Hospital and barracks at Fort Jackson, the D.D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon and the United States Air Force Academy. Michels says, "The results of these real-world trials should encourage a leap forward in the design of HVAC systems and make a major contribution to the reduction of Sick Building Syndrome and the improvement of indoor air quality."