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.



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


About thomasdinnocenzi

Thomas D'Innocenzi is a highly accomplished, results-focused senior international executive with extensive experience in global sourcing and market development worldwide to meet evolving business needs. Tom has proven ability in implementing and managing profitable global sourcing operations worldwide. Extensive experience in international market development operations to accommodate rapid growth. Skilled in building top-performing teams, benchmarking performance, and restricting organizations to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Experienced transition leader and change agent. As principal of Nova Advisors, LLC I’ve assembled an exemplary team that brings with them the knowledge and experience gained from starting up a Global Sourcing program with multiple Fortune 500 companies as well as the largest supplier network throughout the Asia-Pacific region. We have experience and expertise in more than a thousand medical and pharmaceutical products in manufacturing and sourcing at the best value. The right product, the right price point and the right branding fueled these successes that resulted in double-digit growth for top line sales and bottom line net margins for our customers. What sets us apart: • Our reach includes a large network of suppliers & manufacturers spanning 13 countries in Asia-Pacific region • We understand the manufacturing process and the business of the supplier and the buyer • Our company culture is based on quality assurance and our process is based on local quality control Our commitment is to be your partner offering the best products and services at the lowest cost. Contact me to discuss how we can make the global marketplace work for you. In addition, I am open to discussing opportunities in global sourcing, international marketing & sales, logistics and medical/pharma in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines & Japan. Aside from my work I enjoy piano, astronomy, physics, and assisting my daughters with their studies. SPECIALTIES: Global Sourcing, Supply Chain Management, Business Development, Marketing, Logistics, Global Networking, Market Development, Healthcare Solutions, Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices, Technology, Asia, Southeast Asia, US and Canada
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