Home > antimicrobial > Copper Kills Antibiotic-Resistant “Nightmare Bacteria” (Part 1)

Copper Kills Antibiotic-Resistant “Nightmare Bacteria” (Part 1)

May 23rd, 2013

By Wilton Moran, Copper Development Association (CDA) Project Engineer

American hospital patients now are increasingly at risk of infection from a new form of “superbugs” called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae – or CRE.  Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calls CRE “nightmare bacteria” and he’s right. In the last 10 years, the proportion of Enterobacteriaceae that were carbapenem-resistent, quadrupled from 1.2% in 2001 to 4.2% in 2011.

CRE are lethal superbugs that are resistant to many antibiotics and more specifically to carbapenems, a “last-line of defense” antibiotic.  It’s a serious problem, especially for hospitalized patients who already are very ill. The death rate due to CRE infections can be as high as 50%, according to the CDC.

Antimicrobial copper door handle manufactured by Trimco.

At the Copper Development Association, we’re working to address this serious problem. We know that Antimicrobial Copper and its alloys (brass and bronze) can help fight deadly bacteria.* A Department of Defense study at three U.S. hospitals found that copper is capable of killing pathogens. Antimicrobial Copper and its alloys are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as being able to kill greater than 99.9% of bacteria within two hours of exposure, including the superbugs MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus).

It is of particular interest that two of the bacteria that make up the CRE strain—E. coli, and Enterobacter aerogenes, and a third organism of concern, although not members of CRE, carbapenum-resistant Pseudomonas aeroginosa (CRPA)—are related to the strains that were actually killed within the two hours on antimicrobial copper surfaces when tested under EPA test protocols. This effect is covered by a public health EPA registration, and was also proven in recently completed clinical trials.

It’s exciting research and the CDA is proud to be supporting efforts to reduce hospital-acquired infections. For more information about the benefits of Antimicrobial Copper products, contact me, wilton.moran@copperalliance.us.

About Antimicrobial Copper

* Laboratory testing shows that, when cleaned regularly, Antimicrobial Copper surfaces kill greater than 99.9% of the following bacteria within 2 hours of exposure: MRSA, Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE), Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7. Antimicrobial Copper surfaces are a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices and have been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but do not necessarily prevent cross contamination; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices.


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  1. Tim Johnson
    September 21st, 2013 at 14:06 | #1

    Nice article. Have you tested the antimicrobial copper against the CREs that also carry copper resistance mechanisms? Just curious if they are effective against those as well since many carry these genes.

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