French hospitals confirm infection prevention qualities of antimicrobial copper

Three-year trial to start in Champagne-Ardenne region of north-eastern France

The Rambouillet Hospital has reported promising results from using copper in combination with alcohol hand sanitiser

New research from two French hospitals confirms the contribution that antimicrobial copper touch surfaces can make to infection prevention.

Rambouillet Hospital, based near Paris, reported a reduction in the acquisition of multi-drug resistant bacteria in intensive care unit patients after the introduction of antimicrobial copper surfaces.

Meanwhile, Amiens University Hospital, in northern France, observed that bacterial levels were significantly lower in its neonatal unit when fitted with antimicrobial copper.

The two facilities were fitted with surfaces made from solid antimicrobial copper – including door handles, light switches, taps and hand rails – to assess copper’s impact on infection control when used in conjunction with regular hand washing and surface cleaning and disinfection.

Patrick Pina, Head of Operational Hygiene at Rambouillet and the study’s leader, said: ‘The promising results obtained at Rambouillet advocate the use of copper in combination with already-proven measures, such as alcohol hand sanitiser. We stand by copper as a valuable counter to the spread of resistant bacteria. We must continue in this direction and intensify our research.’

We stand by copper as a valuable counter to the spread of resistant bacteria

Starting in 2011, the Rambouillet trial was the first in France to confirm findings from the UK, US and other countries that antimicrobial copper surfaces harbour >80% less bacteria than non-copper equivalents.

Furthermore, according to the newly-released results, fewer ICU patients acquired drug-resistant infections after the installation of antimicrobial copper surfaces (compared with 2010 figures, prior to the installation).

In parallel, studies conducted at Amiens found that antimicrobial copper door handles installed in areas where the spread of infection was a particular concern – for example, consultation rooms, toilets, paediatrics, intensive care and resuscitation rooms – were significantly less contaminated than stainless steel equivalents. The study appears in this month’s Hygiènes Journal.

These results were announced alongside the launch of a new trial, to be conducted in five nursing homes across Champagne-Ardenne in north-eastern France. In the largest study of its kind, 1,000 door handles and 1,000 metres of hand rail will be replaced with solid antimicrobial copper items. Lasting up to three years and involving 600 residents (with 300 copper and 300 control rooms) the study will measure copper’s ability to reduce infection rates in nursing home residents. It will be guided by a scientific committee composed of doctors and infection specialists, with funding from across the region as well as the European Union.

Dr Vincent Stoeckel, the scientific committee’s main driver, said: ‘According to the World Health Organisation, we are heading towards a post-antibiotic era, where common infections could become increasingly dangerous to at-risk populations, such as the sick or elderly.

‘Copper is a proven solution, and if this experiment gives positive results, it could pave the way for a significant advance in the fight against bacteria in health facilities.’

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