International Copper Industry Defines Role In the Fight Against Hospital Infections

January 5, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK, NY-The copper industry is working together to answer one very important question: Can copper and copper alloys (brass and bronze) help curb the spread of bacteria that cause hospital infection? Results of laboratory testing and clinical trials indicate that they can. Scientists from around the world shared their work at the first world congress, 'Copper and Public Health', on copper's role in fighting the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections. The conference was held in Athens, Greece in November.

Leading scientists from the U.K., U.S., Germany and Greece, representing the disciplines of infection control, pathology, microbiology, hospital design, metallurgy and engineering, presented the scientific evidence supporting the case for incorporating copper surfaces into healthcare environments to help reduce the risk of infection and to protect public health. The first results from a clinical trial in Birmingham, England, demonstrate that the use of copper on certain surfaces on a busy hospital ward resulted in 90-100 percent fewer micro-organisms than the amount found on the control ward.

In the U.S., hospital-acquired infections claim the lives of some 100,000 people each year. The U.S. Copper Development Association (CDA) is taking a lead role in this international effort through two main initiatives: EPA registration of copper and copper alloys as antimicrobial and the initiation of clinical trials in three U.S. hospitals.

The EPA registration was granted based on independent laboratory tests demonstrating that copper, brass and bronze are more than 99.9 percent effective in killing specific disease-causing bacteria, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the most virulent strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a common cause of hospital- and community-acquired infections.

The clinical trials are comparing the amount of bacteria found on stainless steel, plastic and aluminum objects in intensive care units with the amount found on the same objects made of antimicrobial copper alloys, such as brass and bronze, in order to determine if copper alloys can lessen cross contamination, and perhaps lower rates of infection. The trials are funded by the U.S. Department of Defense under the aegis of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technologies Research Center (TATRC), a section of the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC).

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