When I starting reading this study, the first thing I thought of was how great this could be for inpatient and outpatient oncology centers, especially bone marrow transplant units.
As many of us know, hospital-acquired infections continue to be an ongoing problem for hospital environments everywhere. E. coli, C. difficile, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus play a key role in potentially causing life-threatening infections, especially for patients who are immunocompromised such as cancer patients.
These types of microbes may persist for extended periods of time in the hospital, living on the surfaces of bed rails, doorknobs, chairs, tray tables, toilet seats, and even on the call light devices that patients frequently use throughout the day.
Copper surfaces, which are not routinely used in hospitals, are known to kill bacteria on contact. Studies have found that there are much lower levels of bacteria living on solid copper surfaces than on standard hospital surfaces.
The initial idea for the hospital-based study came from Dr. Peter Sinsheimer, executive director of the UCLA sustainable technology and policy program. Sinsheimer has conducted another study on the viability of alternatives to lead-based copper piping in delivering safer drinking water.
This prompted the research team at UCLA to take this research to the next level. In one of the first randomized clinical trials of its kind, researchers will determine if the reduction of surface bacteria due to the use of copper will result in a decreased number of hospital-acquired infections.
The trial will be conducted at two intensive care units at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center and the counter tops will consist of either copper, stainless steel, or conventional surfaces such as plastic or other types of coating.
The study will take place over a four-year period with all three surface types being sampled for bacteria levels along with patient-infection outcome rates. Additional environmental microbiologic studies and evaluations of surface cleaning will be included in the study, as well as detailed cost-benefit analysis.
Dr. Daniel Uslan, director of the antimicrobial stewardship program at the Geffen School of Medicine and an assistant clinical professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases, states that they will be studying if lowering the level of bacteria on hospital surfaces results in reduced infection rates in patients, better outcomes, and even lower costs.
Hospital surfaces selected for this study will include bed rails, chairs, a bedside table positioned on top of the bed, and a mobile treatment cart-top used by nursing staff that includes handles, a keyboard, and a mouse.
"Finding effective interventions to reduce hospital infection rates in a cost-effective manner is an emerging priority for US hospitals," states Dr. Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "This study will provide valuable information on whether copper-touch surfaces are a cost-effective technology for achieving this goal."
For more information, please visit
the UCLA Newsroom.