Antimicrobial copper helps deliver safer healthcare to South Africa's remote villages

Door handles on Transnet Phelophepa trains are made from germ-killing antimicrobial copper

The Phelophepa trains provide healthcare to rural communities across South Africa. Photo courtesy of Transnet

South Africa’s ‘Miracle Trains’ – Transnet’s Phelophepa I and II, which provide healthcare to rural communities across the country – have harnessed the power of antimicrobial copper to help deliver safer healthcare to millions of people.

The 18-coach trains travel for 35 to 36 weeks of each year, visiting a different community every one to two weeks, and with more than 300,000 people using the facilities annually, infection prevention is a high priority. Consequently, they have been equipped with germ-killing antimicrobial copper door handles to help provide a more hygienic environment for patients and staff.

Antimicrobial copper cupboard doors will soon be added to the kitchen facilities, and plans are also underway to install antimicrobial copper table tops in some of the clinics.

The Transnet-Phelophepas – whose name means ‘good, clean health’ – carry medical professionals and medication along with counsellors and health educators to communities that have no other access to healthcare facilities or education. Using South Africa’s rail network, the trains travel to remote communities where, in some instances, only a single doctor is available for up to 5,000 people.

Copper has been used for the train door handles with cupboard doors to follow in kitchen facilities

‘We added copper to our existing infection control measures to provide additional protection against the spread of infection for the thousands of people who use our trains every year,’ explains Shamona Kandia, Senior Portfolio Manager for Health Transnet Foundation. ‘Phelophepa is about improving not just the health of individuals, but also the health of entire communities, resulting in a healthier and more productive South Africa. Preventing the spread of infection is key to what we do, and research has proven that copper has an important contribution to make.’

Copper is a powerful antimicrobial with rapid, broad-spectrum efficacy against bacteria and viruses, including MRSA, norovirus and Mycobacterium tuberculosi (a pathogen that causes TB). It shares this benefit with a range of copper alloys – such as brasses and bronzes – forming a family of materials collectively called ‘antimicrobial copper’.

Touch surfaces made from solid antimicrobial copper are used by healthcare facilities around the world to reduce the spread of infections such as norovirus and MRSA, supporting key infection control measures such as good hand hygiene and frequent surface cleaning and disinfection.

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