A new copper coating that kills bacteria faster and in greater quantities than current formulations may soon be available for hospitals and other high-traffic facilities.
Although current pure copper formulations are antibacterial and self-sanitizing, they kill certain types of bacteria with thicker cell walls (Gram-positive bacteria), more slowly than bacteria with thinner cell walls (Gram-negative) .
A team of UBC researchers led by Dr. Amanda Clifford, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Engineering, has designed a nanocopper coating that includes nanoscale bacteria-eliminating features and zinc. Nanoscale features are tiny bumps that can kill bacteria by rupturing their cell wall. Zinc, which is also antibacterial, selectively oxidizes in the presence of copper and helps kill bacteria faster than pure copper alone.
“Using our coating could significantly reduce the incidence of bacterial infections on high-touch surfaces in healthcare settings, such as door handles and elevator buttons, because it kills bacteria using multiple approaches. “, says Dr. Clifford. “Because it contains less copper than other existing coatings or whole copper parts, it would also be cheaper to manufacture.”
The team found that the material took just one hour to kill 99.7% of Staphylococcus aureus, a gram-positive pathogen commonly responsible for hospital-acquired infections, compared to two hours for pure copper.
“Not only does this coating kill pathogens faster than pure copper, but it helps ensure that antibiotics remain effective,” Dr. Clifford said. “By using this new formulation, we kill pathogens before patients become infected and need to use antibiotics against them, which slows the rise of antibiotic resistance.”
Researchers have filed a provisional patent for the coating and manufacturing process, which is described in a new paper in Advanced material interfaces.
“This is currently targeted for hospitals and healthcare facilities, as these places are where antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), are a problem. We also don’t want to plus being in a place where we can’t use antibiotics,” says Dr. Clifford.
The team plans to further evaluate the material against other pathogens, such as viruses, in hopes of eventually commercializing their work.
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Davood Nakhaie et al, An engineered nanocomposite copper coating with improved antibacterial efficacy, Advanced Material Interfaces (2022). DOI: 10.1002/admin.202201009
Provided by the University of British Columbia
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