New York, NY – Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) objects made from antimicrobial copper harbor 83% less bacteria on average, compared to stainless steel, plastic, and wood touch surfaces, according to a recently published study in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

“The research has far reaching implications for hospitals because it demonstrates that antimicrobial copper, when used for commonly touched surfaces, kills the bacteria* responsible for hospital acquired infections (HAIs)”, according to Dr. Harold Michels, Senior Vice President of the Copper Development Association.

Touch Surfaces Tested in 16 Rooms
“The bacteria measurements were made by testing six antimicrobial copper objects in each of 8 rooms, and six non-copper (stainless steel, plastic, or wood ) objects in each of 8 adjacent rooms, over 21 months,” noted Dr. Michael Schmidt, Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina and one of the authors of the study. “The side rails of the patient bed, the over-bed tray table, the IV pole, and the arm rests of the visitor’s chair were tested at all sites. Two other high touch objects—such as a computer mouse or a nurse’s call button--were also tested at each site. In total, 5,545 objects were tested.”

The average bacteria level on the six non-copper objects was 2,674 Colony Forming Units (CFU’s) per 100 centimeters squared. A CFU is a measure of viable bacteria. By contrast, antimicrobial copper objects harbored 465 CFU’s per 100 centimeters squared on average. This means that healthcare workers and patients were at a much higher risk of transmitting bacteria in rooms without copper surfaces. Bed rails were by far the dirtiest objects harboring an average of 6,456 CFU’s per 100 centimeters squared, a frightening statistic considering its proximity to the patient. Meanwhile, antimicrobial copper bed rails averaged 366 CFU’s per 100 centimeters squared, or 94% less bacteria.

Three Sites Were Included in the Clinical Trials
The three sites included the ICU’s of the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Administration Medical Center, Charleston, South Carolina and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York joined the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina.

The entire study lasted 43 months. The first 22 months established the baseline bacterial level. Objects made from antimicrobial copper were then introduced in the intervention stage, which began in the 23rd month. The antimicrobial copper objects were fabricated using copper alloys, such as copper-nickel and bronze, registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their inherent ability to kill disease-causing bacteria*.

“This study represents an important step forward in quantifying the benefits of antimicrobial copper surfaces in real world applications,” says Michels. “The experiments were tightly controlled and the detailed results point to the consistent and continuous effectiveness of antimicrobial copper surfaces in reducing bacterial contamination.”

The study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards for all sites as well as by the Office of Risk Protection of the United States Army, the sponsor of the work.