You know what’s not cool? Checking yourself into hospital for one illness, only to contract another illness purely by virtue of the fact that you’re currently in a hospital. That’s bad news for everyone, because you have to stay in hospital for longer, which means more cost for hospital to keep you there and treat you. But new research has come up with a way to curb all the gross infections spread in hospital wards – copper bed rails. Because, apparently, copper kills everything.
According to the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, one in 25 hospital patients are affected by hospital-related infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and it costs $40 billion a year to treat them. In Australia, there are reportedly around 200,000 cases in hospitals every year. Sometimes people die from these infections. For developing countries, that rate is even higher.
Eighty percent of these infections are spread because of surface contact in hospitals, and the biggest offender is the bed safety railing, touched by all manner of staff and patients throughout the day. Calling them “the most contaminated surface” in the room, researcher Constanza Correa from a Chile-based start-up called Copper BioHealth has installed 150 copper bed rails in four hospitals around the country to see if they can curb the rate of infection.
It sounds odd, but copper is actually a known microbe killer. In fact, according to Hannah Bloch at NPR, people have known about its antimicrobial properties since at least 2,600-2,000 BC, when an ancient Egyptian medical text was written about how it could be used to sterilise wounds and treat water. “Bacteria, yeasts and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term ‘contact killing’ has been coined for this process,” Correa and her team report in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Via Copper bed rails kill hospital-related infections on contact