NEW YORK, NY (October 28, 2008) – The first stage of the U.S. Department of Defense-funded clinical trials exploring the role of hospital touch surfaces in the transmission of infectious pathogens has been completed and the researchers reported their findings in a poster session at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, October 28. The data presented describe the first results of a three phase study where the bioload found on stainless steel, plastic and aluminum objects in intensive care unit rooms were measured. Phases two and three of the study are ongoing. During these phases, the bioload on identical objects made of microbiocidal copper will be measured to determine the effectiveness of copper at combating hospital-acquired infections.
The findings being presented at ICAAC show that the most heavily contaminated objects are those in closest proximity to the patients: bed rails, call buttons and chairs were found to have the highest levels of staphylococcus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE). These pathogens can survive for extended periods of time on such objects, which act as reservoirs for the bacteria.
Independent laboratory studies have shown that copper, brass and bronze are more than 99.9 percent effective in killing potentially deadly pathogens, such as MRSA, which are commonly found in healthcare facilities. In response to these findings, the Environmental Protection Agency has registered copper, brass and bronze as antimicrobial materials, allowing public health claims to be made about them.
A similar clinical trial is also being conducted at Selly Oak Hospital, University Hospital Birmingham in the U.K. Results from this trial, also being presented at ICAAC, show a 90-95 percent reduction in contamination on copper alloy surfaces compared to the controls.