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Copper Surfaces in Fitness Centers

One student examines specimens while another records resultsUsing copper-alloy materials in fitness centers significantly reduced concentrations of bacteria on all equipment types, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The study shows that high-touch surfaces in gyms made with copper will maintain reduced bacterial loads, as found in similar studies performed in hospitals. These results could reduce the number of community-acquired infections (CAIs). Led by Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, associate professor of biology, the study found significantly fewer bacteria on equipment with copper alloy grips such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, specialty dumbbells, grip attachments, lat pulldown attachments, and low row attachments.

Study Highlights

Athletic centers have been locations for the transmission of community acquired infections. This study assessed the capacity of copper alloys to reduce the bacterial burden associated with high-touch athletic center equipment. Copper alloy weights and grips were rotated with rubber coated and stainless steel controls in an undergraduate college athletic center over a 16-month period. The study found that copper alloys can mitigate the bacterial burden on high-touch surfaces. Strategically placing copper alloys in areas of high human contact can augment infection control efforts and potentially decrease community-acquired infections in athletic centers.

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Copper Alloy Surfaces in Hospitals

A research study led by associate professor Shannon Hinsa-Leasure and including the work of several of her students showed for the first time that copper maintains the reduced bacterial load in both occupied as well as cleaned, unoccupied rooms. These results could reduce the number of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

Queenster Nartey '16 and Shannon Hinsa-Leasure in the labUsing copper alloy materials in a hospital setting substantially decreased the hospital’s bacterial burden, according to their new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. This study found significantly fewer bacteria on copper alloy products such as grab bars, toilet flush valves, IV poles, switches, keyboards, sinks and dispensers.

The study was conducted over 18 months at Grinnell College and Grinnell Regional Medical Center. During the study, patient rooms were cleaned daily and subjected to a final, or terminal, cleaning upon patient discharge. High-touch areas were swabbed in occupied and unoccupied rooms and aerobic bacterial counts were determined for comparison purposes.

Study Highlights

This study assessed the ability of copper alloy surfaces to mitigate the bacterial burden associated with commonly touched surfaces in conjunction with daily and terminal cleaning in rural hospital setting. Half of the patient rooms in the medical/surgical suite in a 49-bed rural hospital were outfitted with copper alloy materials. The control rooms maintained traditional plastic, metal and porcelain surfaces. The primary outcome was a comparison of the bacterial burden harbored by 18 surfaces and components associated with control and interventional areas for 12 months. Overall, components fabricated using copper alloys were found to have significantly lower concentrations of bacteria, at or below levels prescribed upon completion of terminal cleaning. Vacant control rooms were found to harbor significant concentrations of bacteria while those fabricated from copper alloys were found to at or below those concentrations prescribed subsequent to terminal cleaning. Copper-alloys can significantly decrease the burden harbored on high-touch surfaces warranting inclusion in an integrated infection control strategy for rural hospitals.

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