The Copper Touch Surfaces Program focuses on validating the effectiveness of copper for its inherent ability to limit the growth and spread of microbes with emphasis placed on the most common multidrug-resistant (MDR) microbes acquired by hospital patients. These include MRSA, VRE and A-baum.
Other outbreaks of MDR infections are found increasingly in community settings where there is crowding, contact and compromised hygiene. These include military barracks, outpatient settings (physician’s offices and clinics), long-term care facilities, nursing homes, prisons, athletic team locker rooms and daycare centers, among others. According to the CDC, the incidence of MRSA and VRE are on the rise.
Here is a brief look at each of the three microorganisms selected for study:
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) This bacterium is colonized commonly on the skin and/or in the noses of healthy people. It can get into the body through breaks in the skin (e.g., cuts, wounds, abrasions, burns, surgical incisions) and cause serious infections of the bloodstream, bones or joints. MRSA is resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Alternative drugs must be administered intravenously, requiring extended hospitalization.
In addition to causing endogenous infections, MRSA can spread among patients, usually by direct or indirect physical contact. For example, hospital staff attending to a colonized or infected patient may become contaminated or colonized with MRSA and spread the bacteria to other patients with whom they subsequently have contact. This is referred to as cross-contamination.
- Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) According to the CDC, the proportion of enterococcal isolates resistant to vancomycin reported to the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance System increased 20-fold from 1989, the year VRE was first identified in the USA, through 1993. It has been increasing steadily since then. Hospitals and healthcare settings are the most likely locations where a susceptible individual my acquire VRE. This microbe has been routinely cultured from hospital equipment, doorknobs and bedrails, and has been isolated from the hands of hospital personnel.
- Acinetobacter baumannii (A-baum) is an aerobic Gram-negative bacterium commonly isolated from the hospital environment and hospitalized patients. A-baum is a water-associated microorganism and is a common colonizer of patients in the intensive care setting. Since the beginning of theater-wide operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, microbes of this genus have emerged as a significant cause of infection among military trauma patients. A-baum colonization is particularly common in patients who are intubated, have multiple intravenous lines or monitoring devices, have surgical drains or have indwelling urinary catheters. A-baum infections usually involve organ systems with a high fluid content (e.g., respiratory tract, peritoneal fluid, urinary tract) and result in nosocomial pneumonia, peritonitis associated with continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, or catheter-associated bacteriuria. In Europe, this microbe accounts for approximately five to ten percent of the hospital-acquired infections of patients in ICUs. Further complicating the clinical management of A-baum is the fact that it is inherently multidrug-resistant, often susceptible to only one or two antibiotics.