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Copper beds in ICU significantly reduce bacterial infections

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A study has found that copper hospital beds in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) harboured an average of 95% fewer bacteria than conventional hospital beds, and maintained these low-risk levels throughout patients’ stay in hospital.

“Hospital-acquired infections sicken approximately 2m Americans annually, and kill nearly 100,000, numbers roughly equivalent to the number of deaths if a wide-bodied jet crashed every day,” said co-author Dr Michael G Schmidt, professor of microbiology and immunology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. They are the eighth leading cause of death in the US. Hospital beds are among the most contaminated surfaces in patient care settings.

“Despite the best efforts by environmental services workers, they are neither cleaned often enough, nor well enough,” said Schmidt. Nonetheless, until recently, patient beds incorporating copper surfaces – long known to repel and kill bacteria – have not been commercially available.

Knowledge of copper’s antimicrobial properties dates back to ancient Ayurveda, when drinking water was often stored in copper vessels to prevent illness. In the modern medical era, numerous studies have noted copper’s antimicrobial properties.

However, until recently, no-one had designed acute-care hospital beds that enabled all high-risk surfaces to be encapsulated in copper. “Based on the positive results of previous trials, we worked to get a fully encapsulated copper bed produced,” said Schmidt. “We needed to convince manufacturers that the risk to undertake this effort was worthwhile.”

This in situ study compared the relative contamination of intensive care unit (ICU) beds outfitted with copper rails, footboards, and bed controls to traditional hospital beds with plastic surfaces. Nearly 90% of the bacterial samples taken from the tops of the plastic rails had concentrations of bacteria that exceed levels considered safe.

“The findings indicate that antimicrobial copper beds can assist infection control practitioners in their quest to keep healthcare surfaces hygienic between regular cleanings, thereby reducing the potential risk of transmitting bacteria associated with healthcare associated infections,” said Schmidt.

With the advent of copper encapsulated hospital beds, dividends will likely be paid in improved patient outcomes, lives saved, and healthcare dollars saved.

Abstract
Background: Microbial burden associated with near-patient, touch surfaces results in a greater risk of healthcare-associated infections (HAI). Acute-care beds may be a critical fomite, as traditional plastic surfaces harbor the highest concentrations of bacteria associated with high-touch surfaces in a hospital room’s patient zone.
Methods: Five high touch ICU bed surfaces encountered by patients, healthcare-workers and visitors were monitored by routine culture to assess the effect US-EPA registered antimicrobial copper materials have on the microbial burden.

Results: Despite both daily and discharge cleaning and disinfection, each control bed’s plastic surfaces exceeded bacterial concentrations recommended subsequent to terminal cleaning & disinfection (TC&D) of 2.5 aerobic colony forming units/cm2. Beds with self-disinfecting (copper) surfaces harbored significantly fewer bacteria throughout the patient stay than control beds; at levels below those considered to increase the likelihood of HAIs. With adherence to routine daily and terminal cleaning regimes throughout the study, the copper alloy surfaces neither tarnished nor required a need for additional cleaning or special maintenance.
Conclusion: Beds encapsulated with US-EPA registered antimicrobial copper materials were found to sustain the TC&D risk threshold levels throughout the patients’ stay, suggesting that outfitting acute-care beds with such materials may be an important supplement to controlling the concentration of infectious agents, and thereby potentially reduce the overall HAI risk.

Authors
Michael G Schmidt, Hubert H Attaway, Sarah E Fairey, Jayna Howard, Denise Mohr, Stephanie Craig

American Society of Microbiology material

Applied and Environmental Microbiology abstract

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