Copper: An Antimicrobial Super-Material?

Screen shot 2013-05-23 at 12.38.14 PMOne out of every 20 U.S. hospital patients acquires a hospital-acquired infection (HAI). Such infections are estimated to cause 100,000 deaths each year in the United States, while adding an estimated $45 billion to the nation’s healthcare tab. A number of recent studies suggest that copper, which has natural antimicrobial properties, could significantly reduce the numbers of such infections. For instance, a study published in the May issue ofInfection Control and Hospital Epidemiology reported that the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in hospital settings can reduce the number of HAIs by 58%. In contrast to the traditional cleaning procedures used within hospitals, the antibacterial effect of copper surfaces is permanent instead of episodic and not prone to antibiotic resistance. Stainless steel, which is commonly used in healthcare applications, does not have bactericidal properties.

Another recent study reported that, by using copper in commonly used hospital surfaces, the risk of acquiring an infection could be reduced by 45%. Last year, UCLA received a $2.5 million federal grant to conduct further research on the use of copper to combat HAIs.

Despite copper’s antimicrobial properties, silver continues to be the most commonly used material for destroying bacteria on medical device surfaces. The metal offers broad-spectrum efficacy against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. A Fraunhofer study found that blending silver and copper in a 50/50 ratio resulted in a material with optimal antimicrobial properties and minimum cytotoxicity.

Screen shot 2013-05-23 at 12.38.53 PM

Screen shot 2013-05-23 at 12.47.46 PMThe subject is beginning to receive mainstream attention. CNN ran a feature titled “Copper in hospital rooms may stop infections.” The metal destroys bacteria by coaxing the organism to donate electrons to it, resulting in the production of free radicals within the cell. The result is damage to bacterial’ DNA and cell proteins. The metal is also effective against viral and fungal pathogens.

While copper has been used on surfaces such as hospital door handles, bed railings, and light switches, the material is being employed for a growing number of medical device applications as well. Examples include IV poles and in a copper aerosol guide pipe is used in inhalation systems.

One hurdle to using copper in medical properties is its reputation of being an old-fashioned material that is prone to tarnishing. Copper alloys exist, however, that resist tarnishing while offering a strength profile similar to steel. Incidentally, the colors of the available alloys ran the gamut, from silver to reddish.

There are other routes to employing silver in medical devices. For instance, copper oxide particles can be incorporated into polymeric materials, to gradually release copper ions. Copper also plays a role in wound healing, so such a material could be a good candidate for wound dressings. Nevertheless, the material will likely primarily be used in the near term by the device industry as an antimicrobial surface for equipment used in hospitals. There has been an uptick in the use of the material in surfaces that are commonly touched as shown in the medical device trolley below from ALVO Medical.

alvo-medical-trolley

 

Source : QMED | Brian Buntz editor-in-chief of MPMN.

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About thomasdinnocenzi

Thomas D’Innocenzi is a highly accomplished, results-focused international consultant with extensive experience in global sourcing and business development worldwide to meet evolving business needs. Tom has proven ability in implementing and managing profitable global marketing and sourcing operations. He has extensive experience in international business development to accommodate rapid growth. Skilled in building top-performing teams, bench-marking performance, and developing organizations to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Experienced transition leader and change agent. Tom founded Nova Advisors with the mission of providing expert Global Business Development consulting services for companies seeking to expand their market share as an independent consultant. Tom has a network of experts and advisors throughout the Asia-Pacific region and North America. His expertise includes business development, global sourcing, manufacturing, commodities, logistics, QA/QC, FDA, regulatory compliance, sustainability, and supply chain optimization. Tom is experienced in the medical device, apparel, consumer goods and technology services verticals helping companies advance their global sourcing capabilities and develop new markets through a local and sustained approach. Located in SE Asia and the United States, Tom expands market reach to drive sales. His global sourcing strategy includes directly negotiating with commodity suppliers, supply chain networks and distributors for optimal terms based on his expertise and first-hand knowledge of the players. Contact Tom to use his consulting service to increase your global market and make global sourcing profitable for you in the Asia Pacific Region and the United States. http://www.NovaAdvisors.com thomas@NovaAdvisors.com USA Direct: +1.904.479.3600 SINGAPORE: +65.6818.6396 THAILAND: +662.207.9269
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