Reduction of bacterial burden by copper alloys on high-touch athletic center surfaces

Am J Infect Control. 2018 Feb;46(2):197-201. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2017.08.028. Epub 2017 Oct 25.


Background: Athletic centers have been locations for the transmission of community-acquired infections. This study assessed the capacity of copper alloys to reduce the bacterial burden associated with high-touch athletic center equipment. Copper alloy weights and grips were rotated with rubber coated and stainless steel controls in an undergraduate college athletic center over a 16-month period. The athletic center is used by college athletic teams, student body, and local community.

Methods: The primary outcome was to compare bacterial burdens on copper and control grips by swabbing surfaces. Significance was determined using the nonparametric Mann-Whitney U test with significance assessed at P < .05. Secondary outcomes included characterizing bacterial communities on surfaces and conducting antibiotic susceptibility testing using the Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion method.

Results: Control athletic center components carried bacterial loads 94% larger than those found on copper alloy components. Bacterial community characterization revealed Staphylococcus to be the most common bacterial genus found on grip surfaces. Antibiotic resistance testing of the Staphylococcus isolates revealed that all isolates were susceptible to vancomycin and linezolid, whereas 35% of copper alloy isolates and 44% of control isolates were resistant to erythromycin.

Conclusions: Copper alloys can mitigate the bacterial burden on high-touch surfaces. Strategically placing copper alloys in areas of high human contact can augment infection control efforts and potentially decrease community-acquired infections in athletic centers.

Keywords: Antimicrobial copper; bacterial burden; built environment; community-acquired infections; infection control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / prevention & control
  • Copper / chemistry
  • Copper / pharmacology*
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Sports*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Copper