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Aug. 14, 2007: Funding Awarded to Test Antimicrobial Properties of Copper Metals

August 14, 2007
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NEW YORK - Congressionally appropriated funds to determine the antimicrobial effectiveness of copper, brass, and bronze have been awarded to the Copper Development Association (CDA), announced Andrew G. Kireta Sr., CDA president.

One study will focus on the ability of copper metals to kill deadly pathogens on touch surfaces in hospital facilities in New York City and Charleston, S.C. The other will focus on the effectiveness of copper components in HVAC systems at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.; Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga.; and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. The studies will be carried out for the U.S. Department of Defense under the aegis of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technologies Research Center (TATRC), a section of the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), and implemented by Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).

Recent peer-reviewed research conducted at the University of Southampton in the U.K. shows that copper, brass, and bronze can quickly and efficiently eradicate several different pathogens which are the source of many hospital-acquired infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Escherichia coli O157:H7. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that infections acquired in U.S. hospitals affect some 2 million individuals every year, resulting in nearly 100,000 deaths annually and costing $30 billion.

Microbial growth on common touch surfaces is of increasing concern to health care facilities. According to Dr. Harold Michels, vice president of technical and information services for CDA and the studies’ principal investigator, “A positive outcome to these studies will provide hospitals with solid information on an additional method of combating increasing infection rates and controlling virulent, antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as MRSA, within their environment.”

The touch surfaces study will employ a series of three clinical trials to determine how well natural copper, brass, and bronze surfaces mitigate infectious microbes, decrease cross-contamination, and ultimately help reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired infections in patients. Rates of infection will be measured using three indicator organisms: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) and Acinetobacter baumannii, of particular concern since the beginning of the Iraq War. The surfaces involved in the study are typically made of stainless steel or plastic, which have little or no effect in controlling pathogens.

The studies will be conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medial Center, both in Charleston, S.C. Previous studies were conducted by ATS Labs in Eagan, Minn., under test protocols established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They show solid copper alloys are more than 99.9 percent effective on five pathogens commonly found in health care facilities. The tests have been submitted to EPA as part of a registration process to secure approval for making human health claims for the copper metals.

A congressionally funded companion study will compare copper air conditioning system components, including cooling coils, heat exchange fins, and drip pans, with components made of aluminum as to their ability to control the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi. The trials are designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of copper surfaces in reducing the colonization of HVAC systems by harmful microbes and reducing exposure to these organisms throughout the buildings served by the systems.

Laboratory studies are taking place at the University of South Carolina in the Arnold School of Public Health. Field trials will be performed at the Moncrief Army Community Hospital and barracks at Fort Jackson, the D.D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, and the United States Air Force Academy. Michels said, “The results of these real-world trials should encourage a leap forward in the design of HVAC systems and make a major contribution to the reduction of Sick Building Syndrome and the improvement of indoor air quality.”

The Copper Development Association is the information, education, market, and technical development arm of the copper, brass, and bronze industries in the U.S. For more information, visit www.copper.org.

Publication date: 08/13/2007

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