Sustainable Development Goals

Public health benefits

Clinical trials prove that Antimicrobial Copper® kills 99.9% of deadly pathogens and when used in intensive care units, copper has reduced hospital infection rates by up to 58%.

In 2014 the World Health Organization surveyed the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs around the world—the first such survey it ever conducted—and came up with disturbing findings. The organization found that antimicrobial resistance in bacteria (the main focus of the report), fungi, viruses and parasites is an increasingly serious threat in every part of the world. The report identified “A problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine. A post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can kill, far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”

Hospital-associated infections (HAIs) are an epidemic, claiming more than 1,000 lives each day, which is more than HIV and breast cancer combined. This is an issue that does not discriminate between the developed and the developing world, but it is particularly critical in the latter where the rate of HAIs can be 40 percent or higher.

Through ICA, the copper industry has invested more than $40 million to make an impact on this societal issue, which has led to the development of Antimicrobial Copper (Cu+®) technology. More than 80 percent of the deadly bacteria leading to HAIs are spread through human touch. Copper is naturally antimicrobial, which has been known for centuries through anecdotal evidence going back to the time of Ancient Greece. However, in the last few years through the investments of the copper industry and the work of ICA it has grown more apparent just how powerful and important this inherent property of copper can be.

The efficacy of antimicrobial copper needed to be proven in the laboratory. Lab studies showed that, when cleaned regularly, Antimicrobial Copper kills greater than 99.9 percent of certain bacteria within two hours of exposure. This testing led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to register more than 300 copper alloys for their public health benefits. This marked the first time the U.S. EPA accepted the registration of a solid material for public health.

In clinical trials, with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the power of Antimicrobial Copper was demonstrated in real-world settings. In three U.S. hospitals, the six most frequently touched surfaces in some intensive care unit (ICU) rooms were replaced with a copper alloy. In the control rooms, no changes were made. At the end of the study, the rooms with the copper-alloy touch surfaces had infection rates 58 percent lower than in the control rooms.

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