NORFOLK, Va. – A 10-month clinical trial at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, has determined that hard surfaces and linens infused with copper oxide compounds contributed to an 83 percent reduction in C-difficile and a 78 percent overall reduction in multi-drug resistant organisms including C. diff, MRSA and VRE in a real-world clinical environment. These results occurred in a hospital with a robust protocol for managing infection risk certified by the healthcare-accrediting body DNV-GL Healthcare.
The results of the trial were published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Infection Control on Sept. 28 and presented at the annual conference of the Infectious Disease Society of America in October 2016.
“We’ve just about reached the limit of human processes to control infections in hospitals and Sentara Leigh was already performing pretty well,” said Gene Burke, M.D., vice president and executive medical director for clinical effectiveness with Sentara Healthcare. “We owe it to our patients to try new approaches and this clinical trial indicates that copper-infused products are an effective addition to a robust infection prevention program.”
Patient data were analyzed from the highest-touch surfaces in patient rooms including rolling bedside tables and handrails on the sides of patient beds, plus bed linens, gowns and washcloths that came into direct contact with patients.
Copper products require no new processes, staff training or special maintenance, Dr. Burke adds, but still provide an active barrier to infection.
“We sanitize or terminal clean patient rooms every day, but that leaves 23-and-a-half hours for bacteria to proliferate,” said Burke. “Copper keeps killing bacteria around the clock and our clinical trial demonstrates that copper-infused products can be a practical, affordable solution to augment disinfection protocols.”
Test sites included new and old hospital towers
The first copper clinical trial was conducted in the midst of a challenging onsite replacement for Sentara Leigh Hospital, a 1970’s-era facility in Norfolk, Virginia. As part of new construction, copper-infused hard products were built into the first of two replacement bed towers and copper-infused linens were deployed. The remaining 1977 wing did not receive copper products. The trial took into account that the new tower housed mainly surgery patients, while the old tower housed mainly medicine patients with chronic conditions. Comorbidities, demographics and other factors were taken into account in assessing the data.
The study also notes that during the time of the trial, Sentara Leigh Hospital voluntarily undertook a protocol through its accrediting body, DNV-GL, to achieve the agency’s certification in Managing Infection Risk. Sentara Leigh Hospital and Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital were the first hospitals in the world to achieve this certification from DNV-GL.
Second study seeks additional clinical data
Sentara Leigh Hospital opened its second new patient tower, the West Tower, to patients in April 2015. To further assess the effectiveness of copper-infused products, a second paper is being drafted on a second clinical trial comparing the use of copper products in all 250 licensed beds in both new patient towers at Sentara Leigh Hospital against two other Sentara hospitals. One of those two other sites is Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, built in 1965 and incrementally modernized and expanded. The other is Sentara Princess Anne Hospital, also in Virginia Beach, which opened in 2011. Results of the second clinical trial are expected to be published in 2017.
Sentara Healthcare is confident enough in the effectiveness of copper in controlling HAIs that copper-infused hard products such as bedside tables and bed rails will be retrofitted in all 12 Sentara hospitals and copper-infused linens will be deployed in all patient rooms. The potential for copper products in nursing and assisted living centers is also being explored.
Testing demonstrates effective antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.