When I was teaching Public Health at the graduate level at UMDNJ, the notion of how nosocomial infections  spread was a major source of my research intrigue.  What constitutes a nosocomial infection?  Patient-to-patient MRSA?  The patient’s own flora?  A rouge and evil nurse?  The answer to all those questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

Today, the use of “nosocomial” to suggest “hospital-acquired” has been colloquially modified to the easier-to-remember acronym — “HAI” — meaning, “Hospital-Acquired Infection.”  I’ll stick with “nosocomial” thank you, because that is the proper terminology for the condition.

This week, I was interested to read the following from my Inbox:

New research has revealed that the use of Antimicrobial Copper surfaces in hospital rooms can reduce the number of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) by 58% as compared to patients treated in Intensive Care Units with non-copper touch surfaces. In the United States, 1 out of every 20 hospital patients develops an HAI, resulting in an estimated 100,000 deaths per year. Although numerous strategies have been developed to decrease these infections, Antimicrobial Copper is the only strategy that works continuously, has been scientifically proven to be effective and doesn’t depend on human behavior, according to a recently published study in the SHEA Journal of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Now that’s news!

Just changing hospital surfaces from stainless steel or plastic or formica to copper will reduce nosocomial infections by a whopping 50%!

I think the home copper-top-butcher-block will be the next big thing, along with copper everywhere in the kitchen and bath.  “Copper isn’t just for cooking anymore!”

Here’s the JSTOR scientific abstract for — “Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology” — that provides the quantitative analysis of copper surfaces in hospitals:

Intensive care unit (ICU) patients are at further risk for HAI because of severity of illness, invasive procedures, and frequent interaction with healthcare workers (HCWs). Movement of organisms within hospitals is complex and may depend on microbes residing on environmental surfaces, indwelling devices, a patient’s own flora, and transiently colonized HCWs’ hands, clothing, and equipment. Environmental contamination may contribute to acquisition of microbes responsible for HAIs, and microbes can persist for weeks on materials used to fabricate objects in hospitals. Patients admitted to rooms where previous patients were infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), or Clostridium difficile are at increased risk for acquiring these organisms during their stay, suggesting persistence of these organisms in the environment.

Will copper clothing be next?  What about copper shoes?  I wonder if copper will become more valuable in the medical field than gold?  Will we return to copper pipes in our homes again — instead of PVC — for the clear health benefits of passive copper-fied water filtration?

42 Comments

  1. ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ……………….. as someone who caught MRSA in hospital and whose daughter has conducted research into the uses of silver to prevent.heal/combat infection this is very interesting. I also lived in a house where we had to change the copper pipes to PVC.

    This has so many implications. Now daydreaming about some of the beautiful copper bathrooms I have just seen …………………. oh my …………

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    1. Yes, I have decided copper is my new favorite metal! People steal copper pipe out of houses today — electrical wiring as well — because it’s easy to sell and they make a ton of money. Plastic is cheaper, and less valuable, but now I’m thinking copper might be better for our health!

      Now this news will make copper even more expensive!

      I wonder if copper or silver does a better job of preventing nosocomial infections?

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        1. Excellent! What I love is that a copper surface is always active — three hours and any microbes are extinguished without any intervention on your part. Buy it and forget it — and it will protect you forever.

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  2. Mr P just told me something interesting – years ago when telephone wires were made of copper they were known to be anti -fungal. Where they crossed vineyards – the plants under them never got fungal infections or mildew because of the copper soaked raindrops.

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    1. Wow! Now that is supercool and precisely why articles with comments are worth their weight in copper! SMILE! That is some very helpful, and neat, historical, real-world results. Now I’m thinking we need to wear crowns of copper or something to keep our whole mind healthy! Let the anti-fungal dripping begin!

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        1. Yes, I heard those bracelets were a myth. I know there is copper thread clothing that Montel Williams helps to sell. I’ve seen copper shoes inserts.

          I do think that the power of copper in this context is antimicrobial — so I dont’ think it heals as much as it works as a long-term, natural, antiseptic.

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  3. How long does it usually take before findings like this to occur and things to be implemented? I imagine there may be a longer delay in putting copper everywhere because of sequester related budget cuts.

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    1. It looks like copper operating tables are popular in Eastern European veterinarian hospitals and infections are way down, so the medical community is excited about bringing copper into regular hospital and doctor settings. Copper is expensive, so it will take a dedicated effort in the USA to make the change.

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      1. I can just see it now — copper fundraisers. Wealthy philanthropists having buildings named after them, The Penny Moneybags Copper Institute of Medicine 🙂

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        1. Right! Forget Bitcoins. Invest in copper tables! It would be great to see copper in hospitals. It’s such an easy and natural way to help prevent the transfer of unwanted variables. Is it too late for you to redecorate your kitchen entirely in copper surfaces?

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  4. This is fantastic! I was just reading that article last night…hm looks like it’s time to make copper jewellery again and this time it won’t be because of lack of funding 😛
    ❤ Much love. You have a beautiful mind!

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      1. Thank you 🙂
        I’ve done a little bit of Chasing and Repousse(a technique of embossing metal using various steel tools) on copper, as well as a very minimal amount of raising(vessel making) and have always felt very pressured to create objects out of silver or gold and other precious materials.
        I’ve played more with brass than any other material 🙂 I’ve built mechanical devices (clasps, simple pins) using brass and would love to explore copper more now that I’ve played with brass so many times.
        Not too sure where I want to go with it, but I’m leaning heavily towards creating hollow constructed objects that have then been embossed (wee!) 🙂

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  5. clothes might be interesting too ……………….. having bought up three kids and all the nasties they got from swimming pools and gym – the shoe inserts are an instant win here. I am now asking some of my crafting people if they have ever used it in blankets or in clothing

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    1. Here’s an interesting review on compression wear that supposedly had copper threads, but now seems to not have ever had copper:

      http://wafflesatnoon.com/2013/02/22/seeking-reviews-for-tommie-copper-compression-wear/

      Here are copper insoles that I don’t think have any copper in them:

      http://www.superfeet.com/products/Copper_DMP.aspx

      It seems like there’s a lot of “copper talk” out there — but not a lot of copper in the products… likely, I’m sure, because the metal is so expensive.

      Our pennies aren’t really very copper any more, either:

      http://coins.about.com/od/uscoins/f/copper_to_zinc.htm

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    1. Right! Where is our metals-healing expert, anyway? SMILE!

      I’m trying to think if I have anything truly made of copper around here and I can’t think of one thing — not even copper plated. I need to fix that!

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  6. I have a paellla pan,and a cauldron ……………… the cauldron – is actually a cooking pot from Morocco that looks like a caudron with a lid – the paella pan is new …………………….. have to watch for acidity when cooking with them. Will also be getting a copper cataplan and hopefully a copper alembic for distilling essential oils.

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  7. STOP PRESS – we all know what David wants for Christmas !!!!!

    I am told that “I” have a lot more – we have a Moroccan “Stash” – off the copper kind …………… I cannot wait to see this ……………..

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        1. Neat! Can’t wait!

          I can’t think of any musical instruments that use copper. Maybe a piano string?

          I know the famous copper roofs of the Columbia University are beautiful — and now aged green.

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  8. About bringing copper to our personal lives– I wonder if this could help out schools as well? Colleges are not exactly the healthiest places, between thousands of people using the same dorms and classrooms.

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