Like many other hospitals across Europe,
Now the findings will be put to the test in a real hospital environment. If the trial is successful, copper could be installed widely to cut the death rate from hospital-acquired infections.
According to the National Audit Office, 300,000 patients pick up infections in hospital each year in the
Because 80% of MRSA transmission is through surface contacts, stainless steel door handles and push-plates are being replaced by copper, along with bathroom taps, toilet flush-handles and grab rails. Even the pens used by the staff will be a high-copper brass. A similar ward next door will retain its traditional metal fittings and will act as a control in the experiment. If the laboratory results are successfully replicated, it is likely that thousands of hospitals across
The hospital Trust’s Deputy Medical Director, Professor Tom Elliott, said, ‘Potentially it is very, very exciting if we find that copper actually works in a clinical environment, following the laboratory tests in Southampton and here in Birmingham’. The tests have been showing encouraging results. The MRSA bacteria (staphylococci) on stainless steel remained fully active for days. On brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) they died in less than five hours and on pure copper the superbugs were eliminated in 30 minutes.
The Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at
The tests show that it is not just MRSA that can be killed by copper. The newer threat, the extremely resistant Clostridium difficile can also be killed, as demonstrated by preliminary tests.
Scientists are already considering wider medical applications for copper, including a possible defence against bird flu. Experiments by the