Sometimes the old ways can be innovative: for instance the Ancient Greeks believes that copper was very antimicrobial, and copper is now playing an important role in the struggle against dangerous hospital germs.
In a field test, a whole hospital ward at the AsklepiosClinic in Wandsbek, Germany, was equipped with door handles, door plates and light switches made of copper, because germs are not only transmitted from one hand to another but, in many cases, also by touching door handles and switches.
Currently, scientists at the University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, are evaluating the samples of the first study phase.
The main opponents are dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria (MRSA), which is affecting more and more patients worldwide. Classical sanitary measures are often insufficient to prevent these infections from spreading.
According to the clinic and the involved scientists at the University Halle-Wittenberg, the first study results have shown "significantly less chances of survival" of microbes on copper surfaces, which is why the field test will be continued in the second half of the year.
A complete evaluation is expected by early 2009.
"The struggle against high-resistant agents cannot be won with the previous means, such as the use of new antibiotics and intensive disinfection measures. We must break new grounds in order to reduce the potential danger for our patients," says Professor Prof. Dr. med. Jorg Braun, chief physician of the I. Medical Department at the Asklepios Clinic Wandsbek.
Comparable studies under clinical conditions are planned or are being performed at the same time in the UK, South Africa, the US and Japan.
According to estimates, more than 500 000 of such nosocomial infections – caught in the clinic – occur every year, in German hospitals alone. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), there are 3-million cases in Europe, of which 50 000 are fatal.