With the recent Escherichia coli outbreak in Germany, ways to prevent contamination in addition to hand washing and careful food preparation are being sought. Bill Keevil and colleagues, University of Southampton, UK, have discovered that copper is a simple and effective way of killing E. coli.
A dry copper surface was shown to eliminate 10 million E. coli bacteria within 10 minutes, while complete elimination could be achieved on a wet copper surface within around 45 minutes. This antimicrobial property is inherent to the metal, and shared with alloys such as brass and bronze.
Although the team did not specifically look at the O104 strain — identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the possible cause of the current outbreak — all the new strains investigated were seen to die rapidly on contact with copper. This could lead to copper being used as a touch surface in food preparation areas to help prevent the spread of infections.
- This work will be presented at the WHO International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control in Geneva, Switzerland, on 30 June
- University of Southampton, UK