How Copper Could Save Hospital Patients' Lives

Surfaces made from the metal can kill dangerous germs
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2014 1:40 PM CST
How Copper Could Save Hospital Patients' Lives
Pennies sit in a bin at the U.S. Mint in Denver on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

One in 25 patients in US hospitals gets a new infection at the facility, according to the federal health department, and the numbers are three times that in non-industrialized countries, a Chilean researcher tells NPR. Healthcare-acquired infections, as they're known, can lead to longer hospital stays, increased treatment costs, and in some cases, even death, Constanza Correa adds. The CDC director says 200 people per day die of such illnesses. The good news is that Correa and others are testing a simple method that could cut down on such illnesses: Copper bed rails. Copper has been known for millennia as a material that can quickly get rid of bacteria, viruses, and more; in Correa's words, it "kills everything." A US study found last year that the rails cut infections from 8.1% to 3.4% of hospital rooms.

Correa's team has been replacing bed rails in Chile with copper since last year; so far, they've made the conversion on 150 beds in four hospitals. And "bed rails are only the first step. You can have copper IV poles, feeding tables, night tables, even mattress covers." Indeed, an earlier study highlighted at the Blaze investigated copper door handles, toilet seats, and faucets; researchers found that they had 95% fewer "bugs" on them than standard equipment, the Daily Mail reported in 2008. More recently, researchers in Germany have been exploring the possibilities of copper; they found a 50% reduction in microbes, Deutsche Welle reports. (Another metal may work wonders against superbugs.)

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