Self-Disinfecting Copper Beds Sustain Terminal Cleaning and Disinfection Effects throughout Patient Care

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019 Dec 13;86(1):e01886-19. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01886-19. Print 2019 Dec 13.


Microbial burden associated with near-patient touch surfaces results in a greater risk of health care-associated infections (HAIs). Acute care beds may be a critical fomite, as traditional plastic surfaces harbor the highest concentrations of bacteria associated with high-touch surfaces in a hospital room's patient zone. Five high-touch intensive care unit (ICU) bed surfaces encountered by patients, health care workers, and visitors were monitored by routine culture to assess the effect U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)-registered antimicrobial copper materials have on the microbial burden. Despite both daily and discharge cleaning and disinfection, each control bed's plastic surfaces exceeded bacterial concentrations recommended subsequent to terminal cleaning and disinfection (TC&D) of 2.5 aerobic CFU/cm2 Beds with self-disinfecting (copper) surfaces harbored significantly fewer bacteria throughout the patient stay than control beds, at levels below those considered to increase the likelihood of HAIs. With adherence to routine daily and terminal cleaning regimes throughout the study, the copper alloy surfaces neither tarnished nor required additional cleaning or special maintenance. Beds encapsulated with U.S. EPA-registered antimicrobial copper materials were found to sustain the microbial burden below the TC&D risk threshold levels throughout the patient stay, suggesting that outfitting acute care beds with such materials may be an important supplement to controlling the concentration of infectious agents and thereby potentially reducing the overall HAI risk.IMPORTANCE Despite cleaning efforts of environmental service teams and substantial compliance with hand hygiene best practices, the microbial burden in patient care settings often exceeds concentrations at which transfer to patients represents a substantial acquisition risk for health care-associated infections (HAIs). Approaches to limit HAI risk have relied on designing health care equipment and furnishings that are easier to clean and/or the use of no-touch disinfection interventions such as germicidal UV irradiation or vapor deposition of hydrogen peroxide. In a clinical trial evaluating the largest fomite in the patient care setting, the bed, a bed was encapsulated with continuously disinfecting antimicrobial copper surfaces, which reduced the bacteria on surfaces by 94% and sustained the microbial burden below the terminal cleaning and disinfection risk threshold throughout the patient's stay. Such an intervention, which continuously limits microbes on high-touch surfaces, should be studied in a broader range of health care settings to determine its potential long-range efficacy for reducing HAI.

Keywords: antimicrobial copper; environmental services; health care-associated infections (HAI); near patient; self-disinfecting copper; terminal cleaning and disinfection; terminal cleaning and disinfection (TC&D).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Beds / microbiology*
  • Copper
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Cross Infection / transmission
  • Disinfectants
  • Disinfection / methods
  • Fomites / microbiology*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Patient Care / methods


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Disinfectants
  • Copper