Antimicrobial efficacy of copper surfaces against spores and vegetative cells of Clostridium difficile: the germination theory

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2008 Sep;62(3):522-5. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkn219. Epub 2008 Jun 10.


Objectives: Persistent contamination of surfaces by spores of Clostridium difficile is a major factor influencing the spread of C. difficile-associated diarrhoea (CDAD) in the clinical setting. In recent years, the antimicrobial efficacy of metal surfaces has been investigated against microorganisms including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This study compared the survival of C. difficile on stainless steel, a metal contact surface widely used in hospitals, and copper surfaces.

Methods: Antimicrobial efficacy was assessed using a carrier test method against dormant spores, germinating spores and vegetative cells of C. difficile (NCTC 11204 and ribotype 027) over a 3 h period in the presence and absence of organic matter.

Results: Copper metal eliminated all vegetative cells of C. difficile within 30 min, compared with stainless steel which demonstrated no antimicrobial activity (P < 0.05). Copper significantly reduced the viability of spores of C. difficile exposed to the germinant (sodium taurocholate) in aerobic conditions within 60 min (P < 0.05) while achieving a >or=2.5 log reduction (99.8% reduction) at 3 h. Organic material did not reduce the antimicrobial efficacy of the copper surface (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: The use of copper surfaces within the clinical environment and application of a germination solution in infection control procedures may offer a novel way forward in eliminating C. difficile from contaminated surfaces and reducing CDAD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Clostridioides difficile / drug effects*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Copper / pharmacology*
  • Equipment and Supplies / microbiology*
  • Microbial Viability
  • Spores / drug effects*
  • Stainless Steel / pharmacology
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Stainless Steel
  • Copper