Antimicrobial Copper May Help Prevent Spread of NDM-1

August 11, 2010 – 10:58 pm

Studies conducted at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom provide further evidence of the antimicrobial benefits of copper contact surfaces in healthcare settings. According to the studies, the metal is a potentially useful control measure for the newly emergent New Delhi Metallo-1 beta-lactamase (NDM-1) group of enteric bacteria that includes E. coli, notes Byrony Samuel, Communications Officer at the Copper Development Association.

Clinical research at the university has demonstrated copper’s broad-spectrum antimicrobial efficacy against such organisms as MRSA, C. difficile and E. coli.  This has been further explored in a clinical trial at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, UK, in which frequently touched surfaces were replaced with antimicrobial copper equivalents. The results showed an impressive 90% to 100% reduction in contamination on these surfaces compared with controls. Health facilities such as the state-of-the-art Cystic Fibrosis Centre at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital have followed this lead and replaced key touch surfaces with antimicrobial copper.

Professor Bill Keevil, Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton, believes that copper could play a role in controlling the spread of NDM-1.

“The gene for this new enzyme is carried on transferable plasmid DNA, which we know from our studies is likely to be degraded by copper surfaces,” he observes. “E. coli, MRSA and C. difficile have proved to be inactivated by copper, so it would be very interesting to investigate copper’s ability to combat this new threat.”

The new NDM-1 enzyme confers broad spectrum antibiotic resistance, and its gene is carried on a transferable plasmid, which will likely be degraded when the bacteria are killed in contact with copper surfaces. NDM-1 resistance is unlikely to be transferred to other bacteria, helping to reduce the risk of this dangerous new group of bacteria, writes Samuel.

The Copper Development Association launched a global Antimicrobial Copper brand in May 2010 at the 4th National Joint Conference and Exhibition on Healthcare Associated Infection. The brand is supported by a an informative and attractive website,

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