Copper is Antibacterial
It has been known for thousands of years that copper is antibacterial.
Practitioners of the ancient art of Ayurvedic medicine of utilised copper documented copper’s use for various topical and internal treatments and, as the preferred material for medicinal storage and surgical instruments.1
Now with super bugs developing resistance to pharmaceutical grade antibiotics, copper has attracted a renewed interest and been the subject of more research.
Copper kills bacteria on contact
While we are familiar with many chemicals that can kill disease-causing bacteria such as bleach and alcohol, copper has the unique ability to destroy these pathogens on contact without any other special treatment or application, or side effects.2
This means anything made from copper or is copper plated such as door handles etc will act as a passive disinfectant that will continuously kill any bacteria that in contact with the copper surface e.g. skin contact.
This type of passive disinfectant reduces the time, management and costs for cleaning and sanitising hospital surfaces.
The extraordinary antibacterial property of copper extends to copper alloys too, such as brass and bronze.
Copper and copper alloys are also highly resistant to corrosion.
Copper is an inexpensive and versatile material for applying to high-touch surfaces and objects which ordinarily harbour high concentrations of bacteria.3
While hospital staff for example must be constantly vigilant with sanitising practices to prevent the transfer of infectious disease to their patients, they can take comfort knowing copper is antibacterial,
The United States of America’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) estimate hospital acquired infections cost billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives every year.4
One of the reasons it’s so difficult to control the spread of bacterial infections is because bacteria reproduce and evolve rapidly to produce new strains (‘superbugs’) that have become resistant to conventional disinfectants and medical treatment.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one such example.
Copper is antibacterial because it rapidly corrupts bacterial DNA preventing it from reproducing and evolving into new bacterial strains.
Copper Reduce Hospital Acquired Infections
While there is an initial cost of replacing or modifying surfaces with copper or copper plating such as handles, trolleys, handrails, bench tops, touch surfaces etc, there are immediate and continual health benefits for patients and staff, as well as economic benefits too.
Copper Sterilises Water
Globally, water borne disease is the number one cause of infection and death.8
Copper water containers neutralise many types of deadly bacteria commonly found in drinking water, including E.coli, Salmonella, Guardia, Cryptosporidium and cholera.9
Even in the developed world outbreaks can occur in the municipal water systems.
Storing drinking water overnight in a copper pot kills bacteria and is a simple strategy to purify water, which explains why copper has been used for millennia to store water.
Clean water and education are priceless commodities in the prevention of disease, Copper’s antibacterial properties contribute greatly to sustainable low-cost solutions that saves lives.
- Metallic Copper as an Antimicrobial Surface
- Biocidal Efficacy of Copper Alloys against Pathogenic Enterococci Involves Degradation of Genomic and Plasmid DNAs
- Antimicrobial Properties of Selected Copper Alloys on Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli in Different Simulations of Environmental Conditions: With vs. without Organic Contamination
- Antimicrobial Copper Surfaces for Reducing Hospital-acquired Infection Risk
- Storing Drinking-water in Copper pots Kills Contaminating Diarrhoeagenic Bacteria
Kristine Wagner MHS, CPH
Kristine holds a Master of Health Science in Environmental Health and a Certificate in Risk Science from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a Certified in Public Health Professional by the NBPHE.
She was a Strategic Information Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda supporting HIV/AIDS programs in conjunction with the CDC. She worked as a health scientist at Cardno ChemRisk.
As a student, she conducted environmental health research related to oil development in the Ecuadorian Amazon and wrote her graduate thesis on drinking water contamination from hydraulic fracturing.
She is a professional scuba diving instructor (PADI MSDT) and has worked as a diver in Mexico, Thailand, and Turks & Caicos. She also speaks Spanish and French.