As antibiotic resistance hits the news again, Japan is deploying antimicrobial copper in the fight against resistant bacteria in its hospitals. Nine facilities have installed copper surfaces this year - including bed rails, IV drip poles, door furniture, hand rails and computer input devices - to help reduce the spread of infection and improve patient safety.
'Antimicrobial copper' is the collective name for a range of materials - solid copper and copper alloys - that benefit from copper's inherent ability to rapidly kill bacteria, viruses and fungi that settle on its surface. Copper has proven efficacy against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA, which is responsible for a high percentage of healthcare-associated infections.
Arakawa Hospital, Kitasato University Hospital, Nagara Medical Center, Nihonkai General Hospital, Sanmu Medical Center, Shin-Yurigaoka General Hospital, Shinsei Hospital and Minami Tohoku General Hospital are among the Japanese facilities using touch surfaces made from solid antimicrobial copper as an adjunct to existing infection control measures.
Joining them is the newly-built Hitachi Medical Center - a hospital located in Hitachi City, north of Tokyo in Japan, part of the Medical School of Showa University - that has installed antimicrobial copper beds and overbed tables, produced by local manufacturer France Bed, in its convalescent wards. Sampling of these surfaces showed significantly lower bacterial burden than that on non-copper equivalents.
'I was vaguely aware of copper's antimicrobial properties, but didn't think of using antimicrobial copper surfaces in my hospital until I saw medical facilities around the world installing it,' explains Shigefumi Goto, Executive Director of Administration and Management at Hitachi Medical Center. 'Now our monitoring tests have shown the antimicrobial properties of our copper surfaces to be significant, I'm very glad I made the correct decision of installing them. We're so excited by these results, I hope to use more antimicrobial copper products in future. I'm thinking of beginning with antimicrobial copper door handles.'
Also regarding the future of antimicrobial copper at the hospital, Hisako Kawasaki, Director of Nursing, says: 'I would like to hold a seminar to share our knowledge of antimicrobial copper surfaces, resulting from the monitoring tests. We need to make sure all our nurses and doctors understand the efficacy of antimicrobial copper.'