Copper-bottomed guarantee to beat the bugs

The efficacy of copper and copper alloys has been rediscovered as a means of killing bacteria in hospitals

Making artefacts out of copper and copper alloys for use in hospitals reduces the number of live micro-organisms on their surfaces by up to 95%.

Their effectiveness has been known for thousands of years, but now can be coupled with new surface treatment technologies that also retain an attractive appearance.

Professor Tom Elliott, leader of a copper clinical trial at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, reveals that almost 10% of patients come into hospital in the UK with an infection. “Of the nine who don’t, we manage to give 10% of them an infection,” he reveals - which translates into 300,000 patients acquiring infections in hospital each year.

Elliott recalls the Smith Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text written between 2600 and 2200 BC, which records the use of copper to sterilise chest wounds and drinking water. “Dare I say it? It has taken a long time for the penny to drop,” he says.

Tom Shelley

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