History of antimicrobial copper

That copper has beneficial effects in humans has been known for at least 4,000 years. The use of copper for drinking water containers to ensure portability, and the application of the powdered metal to wounds for disinfection is reported in ancient Egypt3. The Aztecs used copper to treat various skin diseases2. Hippocrates, the father of medicine (460 – 380 B.C.E) recommended the use of copper for leg ulcers related to varicose veins2. In France, during the three cholera epidemics around 1850, it was observed that workers in copper foundries were not affected by the disease3.

More recently, in 1970 the American College of Chest Physicians published on the ‘Antibacterial action of copper’. They showed using copper in large reservoir nebulizers used in respiratory therapy resulted in the contents remaining sterile4. More pertinently, in 1983, a hospital study in Pennsylvania showed copper’s effectiveness in lowering the E. coli count on brass door knobs.5.

What is antimicrobial copper?

Antimicrobial is the ability of copper ions to neutralize germs, fungi and viruses. Pathogenic microbes remain alive and contagious, on surfaces for many hours, days, even months. They form a “tank” and are transmitted through of touch. However, germs cannot survive on surfaces antimicrobial copper.

The way antimicrobial copper eliminates pathogenic germs is listed below:

Disrupts the operation of the potassium-sodium pump in the outer membrane of germs
Disrupts the osmotic balance of microbes
It causes oxidative stress by producing hydrogen peroxide
Disrupts the phase of DNA replication in viruses
Stages of elimination of pathogenic microbes from the antimicrobial copper

Antimicrobial copper is used on the surfaces of frequent contact in a hospital-media, schools, gyms, public buildings and public transport. Constitutes already an active ingredient in many different types of antimicrobial products used in agriculture, in marine environments, in health care and at home.

Antimicrobial copper against nosocomial Infections

During the subsequent decades the major concern within the medical community has been Health Care Associated Infections (HCAI), or “nosocomial” infections.

This year’s report from the WHO notes how difficult it is to gather reliable and comparable HCAI evidence globally or even nationally. But they are able to conclude that “hundreds of millions of patients are affected by them around the world.”7.

Only receiving public attention when a family member suffers or there are outbreaks, HCAIs are a very real endemic, on-going problem and one that no institution or country can claim to have solved, despite many efforts.

The statistics are harrowing.  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) indicated HCAI levels in Europe as 7.1% in 2009. This equates to over 4 million patients being affected each year.9. The estimated incidence rate in the United States of America was 4.5% in 2002, corresponding to 1.7 million affected patients10.

Infections in ICUs can be as high as 51%, most of these being health care-associated12.  Furthermore, the longer patients stay in an ICU, the more at risk they become of acquiring an infection.12.

The measures taken towards reducing microbe transportation through frequently touched surfaces started in the last decade with the “Clean Care is Safer Care” campaign (WHO)12. In many national healthcare systems, specific guidelines were given to healthcare professionals, in order to raise awareness and help combat nosocomial infections.

In 2001 in the UK, ‘the EPIC Project: Developing National Evidence-based Guidelines for Preventing Healthcare associated Infections’’ among other good practices, points out touch surfaces as one of the major components of microbial concentration and transfer13.