The present study was performed in real life settings in different facilities (hospital, kindergarten, retirement home, office building) with copper and copper alloy touch surface products (floor drain lids, toilet flush buttons, door handles, light switches, closet touch surfaces, corridor hand rails, front door handles and toilet support rails) in parallel to reference products. Pure copper surfaces supported lower total bacterial counts (16 ± 45 vs 105 ± 430 CFU cm-2 , n = 214, P < 0·001) and a lower occurrence of Staphylococcus aureus (2·6 vs 14%, n = 157, P < 0·01) and Gram-negatives (21 vs 34%, n = 214, P < 0·05) respectively than did reference surfaces, whereas the occurrence of enterococci (15%, n = 214, P > 0·05) was similar. The studied products could be assigned to three categories according to their bacterial loads as follows (P < 0·001): floor drain lids (300 ± 730 CFU cm-2 , n = 32), small area touch surfaces (8·0 ± 7·1 to 62 ± 160 CFU cm-2 , n = 90) and large area touch surfaces (1·1 ± 1·1 to 1·7 ± 2·4 CFU cm-2 , n = 92). In conclusion, copper touch surface products can function as antibacterial materials to reduce the bacterial load, especially on frequently touched small surfaces.
Significance and impact of the study: The efficiency of copper as an antimicrobial material has been noted in laboratory studies and in the hospital environment. The present study further shows that copper exerted an antibacterial effect in different facilities, i.e. in a hospital, a kindergarten, an office building and in a retirement home for the elderly. The study suggests that copper has potential use as an antibacterial material and therefore might serve as a means to lower the incidence of transmission of infectious agents from inanimate surfaces in different facilities, with everyday functions.
Keywords: antibacterial copper; environmental microbiology; hygiene; infection control; touch surfaces.
© 2016 The Society for Applied Microbiology.