[An article from the online version of the London-based paper the
Daily Mail (link at bottom)]
“Copper door handles and taps kill 95% of superbugs in hospitals”
By Fiona Macrae, the Daily Mail (UK)
29th October 2008
Making door handles, taps and light switches from copper could
help the country beat superbugs, scientists say.
A study found that copper fittings rapidly killed bugs on
hospital wards, succeeding where other infection control measures
In the trial at Selly Oak hospital, in Birmingham, copper taps,
toilet seats and push plates on doors all but eliminated common
It is thought the metal ‘suffocates’ germs, preventing them
breathing. It may also stop them from feeding and destroy their
Lab tests show that the metal kills off the deadly MRSA and C
It also kills other dangerous germs, including the flu virus and
the E coli food poisoning bug.
Although the number of cases of MRSA and C difficile is falling,
the two bugs still claim thousands of lives a year.
During the ten-week trial on a medical ward, a set of taps, a
lavatory seat and a push plate on an entrance door were replaced
with copper versions. They were swabbed twice a day for bugs and
the results compared with a traditional tap, lavatory seat and
push plate elsewhere in the ward.
The copper items had up to 95 per cent fewer bugs on their
surface whenever they were tested, a U.S. conference on
antibiotics heard yesterday.
Professor Tom Elliott, the lead researcher and a consultant
microbiologist at the hospital, said: 'The findings of 90 to 95
per cent killing of those organisms, even after a busy day on a
medical ward with items being touched by numerous people, is
'I have been a consultant microbiologist for several decades.
This is the first time I have seen anything like copper in terms
of the effect it will have in the environment.
‘It may well offer us another mechanism for trying to defeat the
spread of infection.’
Researcher Professor Peter Lambert, of Aston University,
Birmingham, said: ‘The numbers decreased always on copper but not
on the steel surfaces.’
If further hospital-based trials prove as successful, the
researchers would like copper fixtures and fittings installed in
hospitals around the country.
Doorknobs, taps, light switches, toilet seats and handles and
bathroom ‘grab rails’ could all be ripped out and replaced with
Although it is usually thought to be an expensive metal, copper
is actually a similar price to stainless steel, the researchers
said. Nursing homes and even our houses could also benefit from
the metal’s ability to wipe out dangerous bugs.
The healing power of copper has been recognised for thousands of
More than 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians used it to sterilise
wounds and drinking water and the Aztecs treated skin conditions
with the metal.
The ancient Greeks also knew of its benefits. Hippocrates,
sometimes called ‘the father of medicine’, noted that it could be
used to treat leg ulcers.
Today, copper is a common constituent in medicines including
antiseptic and antifungal creams. It is also believed to have
anti-inflammatory properties. Many of those with arthritis wear
Although they provide relief to many, there is no scientific
evidence that they work.
Copper is present in our diet in trace amounts and plays an
important role in the formation of red blood cells and in keeping
our blood vessels, nerves and bones healthy.
The research was funded by the copper industry.
[The link above provides a video and two photos.]