In vitro evaluation of antimicrobial efficacy and durability of three copper surfaces used in healthcare

Biointerphases. 2020 Feb 10;15(1):011005. doi: 10.1116/1.5134676.


Antimicrobial properties of solid copper (Cu) surfaces against various microorganisms have been demonstrated, but little is known about the durability and relative antimicrobial efficacy of different Cu formulations currently used in healthcare. The aim of this study was to assess whether three different formulations of copper-bearing alloys (integral, spray-on and Cu-impregnated surfaces) and a stainless steel control differed in their antimicrobial efficacy, durability, and compatibility with hospital-grade cleaner/disinfectants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency draft protocol for the evaluation of bactericidal activity of Cu containing alloys was modified to more accurately reflect cleaning methods in healthcare. The three different Cu alloys were evaluated using 25 × 25 × 3 mm disks subjected to one year of simulated cleaning and disinfection using the Wiperator™ with microfiber cloths presoaked in three common hospital disinfectants: accelerated hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium, or sodium hypochlorite solutions. Bactericidal activity was evaluated using Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. While all Cu formulations exhibited some antimicrobial activity, integral and spray-on Cu alloys showed the greatest efficacy. Assessments of durability included documentation of changes in mass, morphological changes by scanning electron microscopy, chemical composition alteration by energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and surface roughness alteration using profilometry over one year of simulated use. The integral Cu alloy had the least mass loss (0.20% and 0.19%) and abrasion-corrosion rate (6.28 and 6.09 μm/yr) compared to stainless steel. The integral product also showed the highest durability. Exposure to disinfectants affected both the antimicrobial efficacy and durability of the various copper products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alloys / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Copper / pharmacology
  • Corrosion
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects
  • Sodium Hypochlorite / chemistry
  • Sodium Hypochlorite / pharmacology
  • Stainless Steel / chemistry
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Surface Properties


  • Alloys
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Stainless Steel
  • Copper
  • Sodium Hypochlorite