Ancient Egyptian technology may be our first line of defense from hospital infections

Posted by K R on

No matter where in the world you find yourself, hospitals are filled with bacteria and viruses and potential infections for patients. Constanza Correa and her colleagues believe they have found a simple, and very old, fix that could greatly reduce inpatients' chances of infection—replacing bedrails with copper.
Copper definitely wipes out microbes. "Bacteria, yeasts and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term "contact killing" has been coined for this process," wrote the authors of an article on copper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. That knowledge has been around a very long time. The journal article cites an Egyptian medical text, written around 2600-2000 B.C., that cites the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water.
Cassandra D. Salgado, MD (who, besides being a hospital epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine, is also the medical director for infection prevention at the Medical University of South Carolina) explains:
...that the antimicrobial effect of copper-alloy surfaces is a result of the metal stealing electrons from the bacteria when they come into contact with each other. “Once the bacteria donate the electrons to the copper metal, this places the organism into a state of electrical-charge deficit,” she says. “As a consequence, free radicals are generated inside the cell, which ultimately leads to the cell’s death.”
Early data from a study done where copper rails were used in 3 separate hospitals' ICU units are promising. via Daily Kos.

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