[Application of copper bactericidal properties in medical practice]

Rev Med Chil. 2012 Oct;140(10):1325-32. doi: 10.4067/S0034-98872012001000014.
[Article in Spanish]


Copper is essential for cell metabolism in animals and plants and thus for life. Along centuries, copper has been identified as a metal containing antimicrobial properties. In recent years, laboratory assays and clinical studies have revealed that surfaces of metallic copper or its alloys, containing at least 70% copper, eliminate in a few hours several pathogenic organisms including bacterial strains associated with nosocomial infections, influenza virus, HIV, and fungi such as Candida albicans. In March 2008, the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), supported by scientific evidence gathered to date, registered copper as the first and only metal with antimicrobial properties. We herein review certain mechanisms proposed for the antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity of copper. We also discuss in vitro and clinical efficacy studies developed world wide and in Chile, focusing on bactericidal activity of copper surface areas in comparison to materials typically used in hospital environments such as stainless steel and polymers. Scientific evidence gathered to date, consistently shows that the use of copper surface areas in high contact critical points in hospitals, significantly reduces environmental bacterial load. This is associated with a decreased risk of pathogen transmission to patients and represents therefore an interesting complement to infection control programs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Chile
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Copper / pharmacology*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Disinfection / methods
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Copper