The largest trial of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces in nursing homes has been launched in France. The surfaces - made from solid copper or copper alloys - are being tested as an adjunct to existing infection control procedures in the hopes of achieving a safer environment for residents.
Copper is inherently antimicrobial, and shares this benefit with many copper alloys including brass and bronze. Collectively termed 'antimicrobial copper', this family of metals is used to make touch surfaces that will not harbour pathogens that cause infections, actively killing them 24/7 and in-between regular cleans. Antimicrobial copper has proven efficacy against a broad range of pathogens, including MRSA, Influenza A and the highly-infectious 'sickness bug' norovirus, outbreaks of which frequently shut down hospital wards and care homes.
1,000 door handles and 1,000 metres of hand rail will be replaced with antimicrobial copper items in five nursing homes across Champagne-Ardenne in north-eastern France. Lasting up to three years and involving 600 residents (with 300 copper and 300 control rooms) the study will measure copper's ability to reduce infection rates in nursing home residents. It will be guided by a scientific committee composed of physicians and infection specialists, with funding from across the region as well as the European Union.
Dr Vincent Stoeckel, the scientific committee's main driver, explains: 'According to the World Health Organization, we are heading towards a post-antibiotic era, where common infections could become increasingly dangerous to at-risk populations, such as the sick or elderly.
'Copper is a proven solution, and if this experiment gives positive results, it could pave the way for a significant advance in the fight against bacteria in health facilities.'
In the UK, copper's ability to reduce contamination by >80% is acknowledged in the latest NHS guidance on infection control 'epic3: National Evidence-Based Guidelines for Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections in NHS Hospitals in England'. There is also evidence linking the reduced bioburden on key touch surfaces with reduced infection rates. This data comes from a multi-centre trial in US hospital ICUs showing that the introduction of just six antimicrobial copper surfaces to a patient's room reduced their risk of acquiring a healthcare-associated infection by 58%.
Antimicrobial copper surfaces are already being installed in hospitals across the world to improve patient safety, and can also be found in care homes, schools, train stations and airports.