In situ antimicrobial behavior of materials with copper-based additives in a hospital environment

Humberto Palza, Mauricio Nuñez, Roberto Bastías, Katherine Delgado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Copper and its alloys are effective antimicrobial surface materials in the laboratory and in clinical trials. Copper has been used in the healthcare setting to reduce environmental contamination, and thus prevent healthcare-associated infections, complementing traditional protocols. The addition of copper nanoparticles to polymer/plastic matrices can also produce antimicrobial materials, as confirmed under laboratory conditions. However, there is a lack of studies validating the antimicrobial effects of these nanocomposite materials in clinical trials. To satisfy this issue, plastic waiting room chairs with embedded metal copper nanoparticles, and metal hospital IV pools coated with an organic paint with nanostructured zeolite/copper particles were produced and tested in a hospital environment. These prototypes were sampled once weekly for 10 weeks and the viable microorganisms were analysed and compared with the copper–free materials. In the waiting rooms, chairs with copper reduced by around 73% the total viable microorganisms present, showing activity regardless of the microorganism tested. Although there were only low levels of microorganisms in the IV pools installed in operating rooms because of rigorous hygiene protocols, samples with copper presented lower total viable microorganisms than unfilled materials. Some results did not have statistical significance because of the low load of microorganisms; however, during at least three weeks the IV pools with copper had reduced levels of microorganisms by a statistically significant 50%. These findings show for the first time the feasibility of utilizing the antimicrobial property of copper by adding nanosized fillers to other materials in a hospital environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)912-917
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Antimicrobial Agents
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Antimicrobial copper
  • In situ antimicrobial tests
  • Infection controls
  • Polymer composites


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