For Immediate Release
Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America
CHICAGO (April 9, 2013) – Placement of copper surfaces in intensive care unit (ICU) hospital rooms reduced the number of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) in patients by more than half, according to a new study published in the May issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, in a special topic issue focused on the role of the environment in infection prevention.
In the United States, HAIs result in 100,000 deaths annually and add an estimated $45 billion to healthcare costs. HAIs often contaminate items within hospital rooms, allowing bacteria to transfer from patient to patient. Common microbes include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). While several strategies have been developed to decrease HAIs, few have been clinically proven to reduce the spread of these infections. The researchers tested the capability of copper surfaces to reduce environmental contamination of these germs and thereby decrease HAIs in patients. Copper coated surfaces have an inherent ability to continuously kill environmental microbes on these surfaces.
The study was performed from July 12, 2010 to June 14, 2011 at three medical centers including the Medical University of South Carolina, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Patients who were 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 had copper surfaces. Both traditional patient rooms and rooms with copper surfaces at each institution were cleaned using the same practices.
The proportion of patients who developed HAI and/or colonization with MRSA or VRE was significantly lower among patients in rooms with copper surfaces (7.1%) compared with patients in traditional rooms (12.3%). The proportion of patients developing HAI was significantly lower among those assigned to copper rooms (3.4%) compared with those in traditional rooms (8.1%).
“Patients who suffer HAIs often stay in the hospital longer, incur greater costs, and unfortunately suffer a greater likelihood of dying while hospitalized,” said Cassandra D. Salgado, MD, Associate Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and lead author of the study. “Our study found that placement of items with copper surfaces into ICU rooms as an additional measure to routine infection control practices could reduce the risk of HAI as well as colonization with multidrug resistant microbes.”
Previous attempts to reduce HAIs have required healthcare worker engagement or use of systems such as ultraviolet light, which may be limited because of regrowth of organisms after the intervention. In contrast, copper alloy surfaces offer a passive way to reduce burden, without staff intervention or involvement with outside providers.
This study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Army Materiel Command, U.S. Department of Defense. One researcher is currently employed by the Copper Development Association (CDA) and others report receiving grant support from the CDA to study the placement of copper surfaces in other non-patient care environments.
Cassandra D. Salgado, Kent A. Sepkowitz, Joseph F. John, J. Robert Cantey, Hubert H. Attaway, Katherine D. Freeman, Peter A. Sharpe, Harold T. Michels, Michael G. Schmidt. “Copper Surfaces Reduce the Rate of Healthcare-Acquired Infections in the Intensive Care Unit.” Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 34:5 (May 2013).
Published through a partnership between the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and The University of Chicago Press, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology provides original, peer-reviewed scientific articles for anyone involved with an infection control or epidemiology program in a hospital or healthcare facility. ICHE is ranked 15 out of 140 journals in its discipline in the latest Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters.
SHEA is a professional society representing more than 2,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals around the world with expertise in healthcare epidemiology and infection prevention and control. SHEA's mission is to prevent and control healthcare-associated infections and advance the field of healthcare epidemiology. The society leads this field by promoting science and research and providing high-quality education and training in epidemiologic methods and prevention strategies. SHEA upholds the value and critical contributions of healthcare epidemiology to improving patient care and healthcare worker safety in all healthcare settings. Visit SHEA online at www.shea-online.org, www.facebook.com/SHEApreventingHAIs and @SHEA_Epi.