Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Work With Germ-Killing Copper Could Save Thousands of Lives

From the 7 September 2012 Science Daily article

The technology is based on copper alloys that kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. The metals can be fashioned into everything from IV poles to sinks to bed rails — just about anything that is frequently touched in hospitals.

While these surfaces might look benign, they’re covered with organisms that contribute to hospital-acquired infections, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people than AIDS and breast cancer combined. That’s 2 million infections annually, and 100,000 deaths — one infection for every 20 people admitted to hospitals.

While disease-causing organisms can lurk on stainless steel surfaces for two weeks, according to a recent UA research study, 99.9 percent die within two hours on surfaces that contain at least 60 percent copper, Estelle says…

..

New policies from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that go into effect next year should help spur this changeover. Treatment for hospital-acquired infections costs between $35 billion and $45 billion each year in the U.S., and Medicare and Medicaid will no long reimburse hospitals for that treatment if the infections are judged to have been preventable and a hospital mistake.

But even without the new rules, the changeover makes economic sense, Estelle explained. Under today’s reimbursement system, individual hospitals spend $5 million on average each year to treat infections. “Even on the low end, it’s $30,000 per infection,” he said. Clinical trials at three hospitals funded by the U.S. Department of Defense have recently proved that copper surfaces can reduce infections in the intensive care unit by more than 50 percent.

Using published estimates, about 500,000 Americans will contract an infection this year in the ICU. This will cost our hospitals an additional $3.5 billion in treatment, and about 40,000 people will not survive the ordeal. The clinical trial results suggest that installing copper surfaces could cut these figures in half.

“By implementing these surfaces, hospitals can see real, continuous savings year after year,” Estelle said. “This is a passive way to prevent infection that doesn’t depend on human behavior, such as hand-washing or hydrogen peroxide vapor machines. There is no need for maintenance beyond the normal surface cleaning procedures that are already in place.”

September 9, 2012 - Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , ,

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