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25-10-2011 | Sports medicine | Article

Copper surfaces could reduce hospital-acquired infection rate


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MedWire News: Coating the surfaces of furniture and equipment in a medical intensive care unit (MICU) hospital room with copper can significantly reduce the rate of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) compared with leaving surfaces as standard, report US researchers.

Patients admitted to rooms with copper surfaces (CuS) were significantly less likely to develop methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) infections than their counterparts who were admitted to rooms without CuS, explains the team.

"This suggests that environmental bioburden contributes substantially to risk of HAI in the MICU," say Cassandra Salgado (Medical University of South Caroline, Charleston) and colleagues, who presented their findings at the Infectious Diseases Society of America's 49th Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, this month.

The team carried out the study over a 10-month period in 2010-2011 at three US hospitals. A total of 564 patients admitted to the MICUs were randomly assigned to either standard-surface (plastic, wood, stainless steel, or chrome) rooms, or to rooms where bedrails, intravenous poles, overbed tables, chairs, computer monitor bezels, call buttons, and computer mice had been covered with a CuS.

Patients were followed-up for development of a HAI or new colonization of MRSA or VRE.

In all, 269 (47.7%) patients were admitted to MICU rooms with CuS, and there were no significant clinical or demographic differences between patients in CuS rooms and standard rooms.

Overall HAI rates were 12.23 per 1000 patient days, and the rate was a significant 45% lower among CuS-room patients compared with their standard-room counterparts, at 8.95 versus 15.16 per 1000 patient days.

MRSA and VRE acquisition rates were also significantly lower among patients in CuS rooms than standard rooms, at 6.12 versus 8.80 per 1000 patient days. Of note, the overall MRSA and VRE rate was 7.55 per 1000 patient days.

In patients admitted to rooms where all six CuS objects remained in the room for the entire MICU stay, the reduction in HAI rate was significantly greater than those never exposed to CuS, at 6.88 versus 15.72 per 1000 patient days, giving an odds ratio of 0.40.

This suggests there could be a "dose effect," said Salgado in a press statement, in which a greater copper surface exposure leads to lower risk for infection.

In a separate press interview, Daniel Sexton (Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA), who moderated the session at which Salgado et al's study was presented, commented that although the findings were "dramatic," they need to be replicated.

"Whenever you have a technology-answer rather than a person-answer, you've got an important breakthrough," he said.

"Real technology is simple, cheap, and it works," he concluded.

By Sarah Guy

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