18th July 2016

Noting the built hospital environment serves as a significant and continuous reservoir of microbes that can cause infections, the researchers observe that whilst cleaning, hand hygiene and other measures are effective, they cannot completely eliminate contamination risk. Augmenting hospitals with continuously active antimicrobial copper surfaces offers an additional hygiene measure.

The new study—conducted at Roberto del Rio Children’s Hospital in Chile—aimed to build on the evidence that copper and copper alloy surfaces (collectively called ‘antimicrobial copper’) decrease the burden of micro-organisms in healthcare environments, and assess whether this reduced the risk of healthcare-associated infections in paediatric intensive and intermediate care units, as has been reported in adult ICUs.

Admitted infants were assigned sequentially to a room, eight with standard surfaces and eight where key touch surfaces had been replaced with antimicrobial copper items: bed rails, bed rail levers, IV poles, tap handles and the nurses’ workstation. Infection data were collected on a daily basis for the 12-month duration of the study, with HCAIs confirmed according to protocol definitions.

The copper surfaces were found to harbour, on average, 88% fewer bacteria than those in the control rooms, and 94% met the bacterial concentration limit for terminal cleaning ( (<500 cfu per 100 cm2), compared to only 48% of controls.2

For the second part of the study, clinical outcomes from 515 patients were considered in the analysis: 261 patients from the intervention arm of the study, and 254 from the control arm. Crude analysis showed an HCAI rate of 10.6 versus 13.0 per 1,000 patient days for copper- and non-copper-exposed patients, respectively, for a crude relative risk reduction of 19%.

The researchers concluded that exposure of paediatric patients to solid antimicrobial copper objects in the ICU resulted in decreased HCAI rates when compared with those in non-copper surroundings. They note the relative risk reduction was not statistically significant, and report that certain events such as overcrowding may have limited the antimicrobial contribution provided by the copper intervention.

The authors also remarked that designing a randomised control trial was challenging. Nonetheless, they believe copper interventions should be considered as part of a systems-based approach to controlling HCAIs.

‘In contrast to the US trial—where copper surfaces were found to significantly reduce HCAIs in an adult study population from 11.8 to 4.8 per 1,000 patient days (p= 0.013)—the study here represents the first evaluation of the utility of antimicrobial copper for reducing HCAIs in a paediatric setting,’ explains co-author Dr Michael Schmidt, Professor and Vice Chair of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina. ‘Given the additional complications of conducting the trial in a paediatric setting, in concert with multiple patients housed in the same room, the result that copper was able to reduce the HCAI rate from 13.0 to 10.6 per 1,000 patient-days is very promising, providing additional support for the general conclusion that the no-touch disinfection solution provided by antimicrobial copper surfaces offers an answer to the omnipresent risk manifested by microbes within the built clinical environment.’

Touch surfaces made from solid antimicrobial copper are used by hospitals, schools, mass transit hubs, sports facilities and offices around the world to boost other hygiene measures, such as hand washing, cleaning and disinfection, to help reduce the spread of infections.

For more information on antimicrobial copper, visit www.antimicrobialcopper.org.

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