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

Of the two studies funded by these appropriations, one is focused on the ability of copper alloy surfaces to kill deadly pathogens and impede cross-contamination. The monies will be used to complete the pilot conversion of touch surfaces in health care facilities in New York City and Charleston, S.C., where extensive clinical trials have begun.

The other, which follows the same premise, is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of copper components in HVAC systems in reducing the incidence of harmful microbes that can spread through buildings and other indoor air environments.

Since these studies began, the increasing concern over microbial growth on common touch surfaces has moved beyond health care facilities and into the community. In fact, recent cases have been diagnosed in students at many schools across the country.

According to Dr. Harold Michels, vice president of technical and information services for CDA and the studies’ principal investigator, “This decision allows the trials to move into the next, critical phase of study. We fully expect our work will demonstrate that the utilization of antimicrobial copper alloy surfaces will be an effective weapon in the battle against hospital- and community-acquired infections and, when used in conjunction with good clinical hygiene, will help greatly to reduce the spread of certain virulent, antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli O157:H7.”

The clinical trials follow peer-reviewed research conducted at the University of Southampton in the U.K. showing that copper, brass, and bronze can quickly and efficiently eradicate several different pathogens which are the source of many hospital-acquired infections.

The touch surfaces trials will 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 are being measured using three indicator organisms: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) and Acinetobacter baumannii. The surfaces involved in the study are typically made of coated carbon steel, aluminum, stainless steel, or plastic, which have little or no effect in controlling pathogens.

The studies are being conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical 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.

The companion study compares copper air conditioning system components, including heat exchangers 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.”

For more information, visit www.copper.org.

Publication date: 12/10/2007