Antimicrobial Efficacy of Copper Surfaces Against Spores and Vegetative Cells of Clostridium difficil: The Germination Theory

Wheeldon LJ, Worthington T, Lambert PA, Hilton AC, Lowden CJ, Elliott TSJ. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2008;62(3):522-525.

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Objectives: Persistent contamination of surfaces by spores of Clostridium difficile is a major factor influencing the spread of C. difficile-associated diarrhoea (CDAD) in the clinical setting. In recent years, the antimicrobial efficacy of metal surfaces has been investigated against microorganisms including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This study compared the survival of C. difficile on stainless steel, a metal contact surface widely used in hospitals, and copper surfaces.

Methods: Antimicrobial efficacy was assessed using a carrier test method against dormant spores, germinating spores and vegetative cells of C. difficile (NCTC 11204 and ribotype 027) over a 3 h period in the presence and absence of organic matter.

Results: Copper metal eliminated all vegetative cells of C. difficile within 30 min, compared with stainless steel which demonstrated no antimicrobial activity (P < 0.05). Copper significantly reduced the viability of spores of C. difficile exposed to the germinant(sodium taurocholate) in aerobic conditions within 60 min (P < 0.05) while achieving a ≥2.5 log reduction (99.8% reduction) at 3 h. Organic material did not reduce the antimicrobial efficacy of the copper surface (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: The use of copper surfaces within the clinical environment and application of a germination solution in infection control procedures may offer a novel way forward in eliminating C. difficile from contaminated surfaces and reducing CDAD.