Understanding the durability and efficacy of antimicrobial copper surfaces in preventing infectious spread in medical facilities

Easton, Bradley | $50,000

Ontario Ontario Tech University 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has heightened the public’s awareness of the severe consequences from the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses. In addition to airborne droplets, COVID‑19 can also be spread via common touch surfaces such as door handles, countertops railings, and bathroom fixtures. While hospitals have rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place, the current pandemic requires that these protocols be augmented with innovative and effective solutions that limit spread in between cleanings. The partnership between Ontario Tech University and Northumberland Hill Hospital (NHH) is focused on meeting this need. Specifically, NHH is keenly interested in deploying antimicrobial copper (Cu) coatings onto high-touch surfaces to limit virus spread in-between cleanings. However, there are durability concerns since Cu is more easily oxidized than stainless steel. It is currently unknown if these Cu surfaces can withstand the harsh chemicals and rigorous cleaning/disinfecting protocols mandated in hospitals. This could potentially lead to accelerated wear that reduce effectiveness and/or require frequent replacement.

To address this key hospital need, our collaborative project is focused on evaluating the effectiveness of short-term and longer-term methods to deploy Cu surfaces into these environments. This will allow for the creation and deployment of the most effective and long-lasting Cu-based antimicrobial films. In addition, this project seeks to develop accelerated testing methods to independently verify the durability and efficacy of Cu surfaces in high-touch medical settings. At the completion of this project this new tool and subsequent knowledge that will be derived from it will enhances the capacity of NHH and other hospitals to test the durability and efficacy of these Cu surfaces. Our methods and finding will be highly valuable to the broader healthcare sector as well as essential infrastructure operators (e.g. powerplants), enabling them who will be able to employ an evidence-based methodology to decide if copper-based antimicrobial surfaces are robust enough for use in their operations.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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