Copper -- and brass -- don't spread germs because they kill microbes on their surfaces continuously.
Healthcare-acquired infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus often contaminate items within hospital rooms, allowing bacteria to transfer from patient-to-patient.
Dr. Cassandra D. Salgado of the Medical University of South Carolina said several strategies to decrease healthcare-acquired infections have been attempted but few have been clinically proven to reduce the spread of these infections.
The study led by Salgado was performed from July 12, 2010, to June 14, 2011, at the Medical University of South Carolina, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Patients admitted to the ICU of these hospitals were randomly assigned to receive care in a traditional patient room or in a room where items such as bed rails, tables, IV poles and nurse's call buttons were made solely from copper-based metals. Both traditional patient rooms and rooms with copper surfaces were cleaned using the same practices.
The study, scheduled to the published in the May issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, found copper in ICU hospital rooms reduced the number of healthcare-acquired infections in patients by more than half.
In the United States, healthcare-acquired infections result in 100,000 deaths annually and add an estimated $45 billion to healthcare costs.