You know those “cure-all” copper bracelets you’ve seen people wearing around for years? Like there often is for many an “old wives’ tale”, it turns out there is probably more than an element of truth to the potential health benefits of copper! Not necessarily in the form of protection from arthritis or “rheumatism” but good old copper appears to be a super, inexpensive protector against harmful and even sometimes lethal bacteria!
Medical studies going back a number of years were able to show that bacteria and copper don’t get along. Copper appears to have a disruptive effect on bacterial cell membranes – an effective weapon against bacteria that is actually similar to how many of our most expensive antibiotics work. There are other metals – such as silver – which have similar antibiotic properties and are currently in use as an antibacterial strategy for special wound dressings and catheters. But copper is much more abundant and much less expensive than metals like silver.
Dr. Cassandra Salgado of the University of South Carolina conducted a study of copper’s potential use as an inexpensive bacteria killer in the university hospital’s ICU. The study involved refitting several of the ICU room’s surface areas (counters, tables, etc.) with copper. Only about 10% of the total available surface areas were converted to copper in certain specific rooms. Other ICU rooms were left unconverted for comparison over time. The hypothesis was that since bacteria would have more difficulty staying around and alive on copper surfaces as compared to more standard building materials, a decrease in hospital acquired infections (often deadly in ICU patients) might be seen.
The nearly one year study recently concluded and demonstrated that there was a dramatic overall decreased risk – a 45% less chance – of acquiring a dangerous infection in the “copper” rooms! This implies that patients placed in copper outfitted rooms would be much less likely to acquire a potentially lethal bacterial infection without any other changes made in their care. Lower infection rates would also translate into quicker, less complicated recoveries, shorter hospital stays and provide a potential savings of millions of dollars a year in health care costs which are currently associated with hospital acquired infections.
The “copper” effect will need to be studied further as these important findings warrant a closer and more intensive look at good old copper. As a result, you may be seeing some very different looking hospital rooms within the next few years!
Dr. Lyle Back is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) and a longstanding member of the premier American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). He specializes in the full range of the most modern and state of the art cosmetic procedures (surgical and non-surgical) available today.