If McGuyver was a physician, we think he’d love this low-tech solution for halting the spread of MRSA within hospitals.
They have proved resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics. But hospital superbugs may finally have met their match – in copper door handles.
Copper, used in medicines for 4,000 years, has been shown to be highly effective in killing off viruses such as MRSA [MRSA is a bacterium, not a virus -ed].
Even the H5N1 bird flu virus could be vulnerable to it.
So successful have laboratory results been, that all the stainless steel fittings in one hospital ward are to be replaced with copper ones to see if they cut infection rates.
Doorknobs, bath taps, toilet handles and ‘grab rails’ will be ripped out and replaced with copper versions at Birmingham’s Selly Oak hospital.
The trial follows work by scientists at Southampton University which expanded on existing knowledge of the anti-bacterial qualities of copper.
They found that the metal ‘suffocates’ germs, stopping them from breeding, and also destroying their DNA.
Even tiny pieces of copper killed vast amount of bugs.
A piece just one centimetre square wiped out 10million MRSA bacteria in just 90 minutes. With concentrations of germs on door handles and other surfaces generally much lower, it is thought it will take just 30 minutes to kill the bugs on hospital surfaces.
By contrast, bacteria can survive for days on stainless steel.
Professor Bill Keevil said the findings demonstrated the important role that copper could play in combating superbugs which infect 300,000 patients each year and kill at least 5,000.
‘Our work has shown that copper and some of its alloys are able to kill bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens within minutes or hours of when they come into contact,’ he added.