Copper shown to help reduce spread of norovirus

Published: 28-May-2013

According to new research from the University of Southampton

New research from the University of Southampton shows that copper and copper alloys could help reduce the spread of the highly infectious sickness bug norovirus.

The virus can be contracted from contaminated food or water, person-to-person contact, and contact with contaminated surfaces. It is responsible for more than 267 million cases of acute gastroenteritis each year.

There is no specific treatment or vaccine for norovirus, and outbreaks regularly shut down hospital wards and care homes. Its impact is also felt beyond healthcare, with closed environments such as cruise ships also suffering epidemics.

Professor Bill Keevil, Chair in Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton and leading researcher, presented his work at the American Society for Microbiology’s 2013 General Meeting, which took place last week (18–21 May).

The presentation, Inactivation of Norovirus on Dry Copper Surfaces, stated that the rate of inactivation of norovirus at room temperature was highest upon first contact of virus to surface. On alloys containing 60–90% copper, a rapid 2-log reduction in infectivity over 5 hours’ contact was followed by slower inactivation over the following 43 hours. The contamination model used was designed to simulate fingertip-touch contamination of surfaces.

“Copper alloy surfaces can be employed in high-risk areas such as cruise ships and care homes, where norovirus outbreaks are hard to control because infected people can’t help but contaminate the environment with explosive vomiting and diarrhoea,” Keevil said.

“The virus can remain infectious on solid surfaces and is also resistant to many cleaning solutions. That means it can spread to people who touch these surfaces, causing further infections and maintaining the cycle of infection. Copper surfaces, like door handles and taps, can disrupt the cycle and lower the risk of outbreaks.”

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