Exploring Copper as an Antimicrobial
The antimicrobial properties of copper have been known for years. With the metal being used for many millennia to treat infections, it’s no wonder we’re now using these properties to our advantage to help create safer environments. But how does copper work as an antimicrobial?
Copper has a free electron, that easily takes place in oxidation-reduction reactions. Other antibacterial metals, like gold and silver, don’t have this free electron, and are therefore less reactive.
Professor Bill Keevil has been studying the antimicrobial properties of copper for over 20 years. According to him, ‘when a microbe lands on copper, ions blast the pathogen like an onslaught of missiles, preventing all respiration and punching holes in the cell membrane or viral coating and creating free radicals that accelerate the kill, especially on dry surfaces.’
Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is becoming a global concern. Antimicrobial resistance is what happens when bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi stop responding to medicines. This makes infections a lot harder to treat. AMR is what happens to bugs, which then spread to others. Two ways in which AMR can be targeted, is reducing antibiotic use, and minimising the spread of these bugs.
The World Health Organisation declared that Antimicrobial Resistance is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.
On copper, the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes between resistant bacteria is stopped. This is because the genes get destroyed.
Using copper in healthcare environments will help tackle antimicrobial resistance whilst also reducing the risk of infections and spread of diseases. This solution would also help reduce Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), which are infections that occur whilst receiving healthcare, developed in a hospital or other healthcare facilities. The introduction of antimicrobial touch surfaces could become an extremely effective way of preventing HCAIs and AMR.
Copper vs Silver and Stainless Steel
Other materials are known to have certain antimicrobial properties, whilst others have none. For example, silver is widely used for certain products. The ions punch holes in bacterial membranes, killing them. However, research has shown that the biocidal activity of silver only becomes measurable at a temperature of 35°C and a 95% humidity. When the silver was at room temperature its antimicrobial activity was the same as stainless steel, which is none at all, and can harbour deadly bacteria and viruses for days. Additionally, it is worth noting that silver does not work as an antimicrobial surface when it's dry, but needs moisture to have the same effects as copper.
When comparing copper with silver, we can see copper has better properties. It’s effective against all viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc, whereas silver is a lot less effective against viruses and fungi.
Copper also has positive effects on the human body. These include the ability to help heal wounds, and improve skin elasticity, as well as being a crucial micro-nutrient. None of these benefits are properties of silver.
Copper is durable and its efficacy is either not effected or enhanced in different environmental conditions. Silver can easily be effected by these same conditions, and if presented as a treatment, e.g a coating, can be a lot less durable.
Lastly, silver, used in certain antimicrobial coatings, cannot kill MRSA on dry touch surfaces.
Stainless steel, which is widely used throughout most environments, has no antimicrobial properties at all, meaning bacteria and viruses can grow and spread very easily.
At HYGI-Group, we have understood the amazing properties and great potential of copper, and how using it in different environments will be extremely beneficial in helping reduce the spread of infectious diseases and viruses. With this research and information, we have created a unique metal alloy that has all the antimicrobial properties of copper, whilst looking just like stainless steel.
The average adult touches up to 30 objects a minute, and 80% of infections are spread by touch. Introducing HYGI-Group products into your environment, will help decrease pathogens and in turn ensure different spaces are a lot safer.