A poster presented at this week's International Conference on Disaster and Military Medicine shows copper's ability to rapidly kill biothreat species classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as agents posing severe threats to public health and having the potential to be deliberately released.
Copper is known to rapidly kill bacteria and inactivate viruses that settle on its surface. It shares this benefit with many copper alloys, creating a family of materials referred to as 'antimicrobial copper'. As solid antimicrobial copper touch surfaces such as door handles, taps and work surfaces are being deployed in hospitals around the world to help reduce the spread of infection, researchers are exploring the wider potential of copper to protect human health.
Studies conducted by the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (German Federal Armed Forces) looked at pathogenic bacteria considered 'high-consequence' - those able to evade the host immune system and among the most serious and lethal microbial challenges to human health.
All agents were rapidly inactivated on copper between 30 seconds and 5 minutes, with the exception of B. anthracis endospores (that cause anthrax), for which the cell count was reduced by 1-2 log10 steps in the first few minutes, after which a constant level was maintained.
The poster concludes that antimicrobial copper surfaces might make a meaningful contribution to infection prevention, for example in barrier nursing in healthcare facilities around the world, and medical missions including stationary or mobile patient isolation units.
Contributors and delegates of the International Conference on Disaster and Military Medicine (taking place in Düsseldorf at the MEDICA Trade Fair, 12-13 November) include around 200 high-ranking military medical and public health professionals alongside experts from related scientific institutes, organisations and companies involved with emergency, disaster and military medicine.
It addresses a broad field of related topics and provides a platform for international military and civilian experts, disaster and defence policy-makers, medical planners and researchers to exchange lessons and experiences, and strengthen their network.
For more information, visit www.antimicrobialcopper.org.
Killing of Biothreat agents on metallic copper surfaces
Pauline Bleichert and Gregor Grass, Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, Munich, Germany
2nd International Conference on Disaster and Military Medicine, 12-13 November 2014
Inactivation of bacterial and viral biothreat agents on metallic copper surfaces
Bleichert P, Espírito Santo C, Hanczaruk M, Meyer H, Grass G