Antimicrobial Copper

The Ralph H Johnson Veterans Medical Center, USA

The Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Medical Center is a primary, secondary and tertiary care facility that serves more than 40,000 US army veterans annually. The healthcare centre conducts investigations that will improve the health care of veterans. It is one of three hospitals involved in the US pilot programme to assess Antimicrobial Copper’s efficacy in a clinical environment. Antimicrobial Copper touch surfaces have been installed in the 6-bed Intensive Care Unit. Installed surfaces include: nurses’ call devices, bedrails, and more.

As in the two other hospitals involved in the American clinical trials, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC, researchers in this institution have replaced stainless steel, aluminum and plastic touch surfaces with Antimicrobial Copper. The surfaces replaced are those that testing has shown to be most heavily contaminated and, coincidentally, are in closest proximity to patients and visitors.

The pilot programme is being executed in three stages. The first stage established the baseline microbial burden on frequently-touched objects in ICU rooms. The second stage, which has recently been completed, compared the microbial burden on Antimicrobial Copper surfaces with the microbes on non-copper equivalent surfaces. The third stage will assess cross-contamination of bacteria between patients and the environment and the incidence of hospital-acquired infections in the ICU. The connection between contamination on frequently-touched surfaces and patient acquisition of infections will also be evaluated.

Objects in Closest Proximity to Patients are Most Heavily Contaminated

Findings from the first stage of the programme show that the most heavily contaminated objects are those in closest proximity to the patients: bed rails, call buttons and chairs were found to have the highest levels of Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).  These pathogens can survive for extended periods of time on such objects, which act as reservoirs for the bacteria. The average microbial burden on objects was nearly 17,000 Colony Forming Units per 100 square centimetres.

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