Thursday, 16 October 2014

Could Copper be the answer to reducing Healthcare Acquired Infections?

Could Copper be the answer to reducing Healthcare Acquired Infections?

Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAI's) have long been an issue for those going into hospital, with many people having tales of going in to have a relatively low risk operation and coming out with something quite serious like MRSA.  The main cause of this issue is reportedly the lack of good hand washing practice.  Even after extensive awareness programmes we still don't seem to have made a dent in the problem.

However, the news of coppers antimicrobial benefits are becoming more widely known and much research has taken place to scientifically prove coppers benefits.  Bacteria can live on many surfaces for days or even months if conditions for them are good, i.e. warm and moist.  However, copper-alloy is reportedly able to kill 99.9% of bacteria in just a few hours.

The knowledge of coppers antimicrobial effects is surprisingly old.  Ancient Indians for instance used copper pots to store their water to prevent it becoming contaminated, similarly Greek sailors placed copper in their water for the same reason.

A scientific test, published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in 2012, showed a 58% reduction in HAI's after replacing just 6 key items in the tested hospital rooms.  These items were the patients dinner table, their handrail, the call button, the IV pole, the chairs arm rests and the date input device - all items that receive regular handling.

But unfortunately it all comes down to costs.  At present these items are usually made out of plastic or stainless steel which are cost effective materials to use on large scale builds like a hospital, copper is a much more expensive material.  However, the cost of caring for people who have contracted HAI's is also high, so perhaps one day we may see this implemented into our public health system.

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