Copper alloy materials reduce bacteria in hospital rooms, study finds

Copper alloy material can reduce the bacterial load in both occupied and unoccupied patient rooms, which could reduce healthcare-associated infections, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

A 49-bed rural hospital put copper alloy materials on surfaces like grab bars, toilet flushers, IV poles, switches, keyboards, sinks and dispensers in half of its rooms, while the other rooms maintained their plastic, metal and porcelain surfaces. Researchers then compared bacterial burden on 20 high-touch surfaces and components in control and copper rooms for 12 months, swabbing surfaces in each room regardless of if it was occupied or not.

They found rooms with copper alloy materials had significantly lower concentrations of bacteria upon completion of terminal cleaning. Vacant rooms with traditional surfaces harbored "significant traces of bacteria," while those with copper alloys had much lower bacterial burden.

"This study is the first to demonstrate that copper alloy surfaces maintain reduced bacterial numbers in unoccupied and occupied control rooms," said Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, PhD, an associate professor of biology at Grinnell (Iowa) College and the study's leader. "This is in contrast to control rooms, where bacterial numbers rebound following terminal cleaning to levels comparable to those found in occupied control rooms. This is key to protecting newly admitted patients from contracting infections through commonly touched surfaces, even when they are considered clean, and is integral to an effective infection-control strategy."

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