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Copper as the Alternative Antibiotic?

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Microbe resistance has become a huge problem for medical professionals. Antibiotics, once hailed as miracles, are now losing their effectiveness. Viruses and bacteria are evolving to withstand them, and they are becoming stronger and more potent than before. MRSA bugs have swept through hospitals and killed patients, and it isn’t just antibiotic overuse that has caused the problem. Anti-bacterial wipes and soaps have had the same effect.

Even antifungals are implicated. Since widespread use of antifungal medication for thrush, candida is becoming increasingly resistant to treatment, and there has been a change in flora from C. albicans to non-albican species.

Scientists have focused on vaccines, hoping to immunize people against viruses and bacteria because their antibiotics and anti-virals aren’t working like they used to. Unfortunately, the problem has also occurred with vaccines as the diseases have mutated.

For instance, a report published by Emerging Infectious Diseases found that pertussis has mutated and now produces more toxins, which has not only led to a resurgence of whooping cough, but has also made it more virulent and dangerous.

“We present evidence that in the Netherlands the dramatic increase in pertussis is temporally associated with the emergence of Bordetella pertussis strains carrying a novel allele for the pertussis toxin promoter, which confers increased pertussis toxin (ptx) production. Epidemiologic data suggest that these strains are more virulent in humans.”

The problem even extends to our farming methods. Pigs and other farm animals are routinely given antibiotics to prevent disease due to the intensive way they are farmed. They are also given the antibiotics to help them gain weight. After scientists took cockroaches and houseflies from pig farms, they found that they had many drug resistant bacteria on them.

“The big concern is not that humans will acquire drug-resistant bacteria from their properly cooked bacon or sausage, but rather that the bacteria will be transferred to humans from the common pests that live with pigs and then move in with us,” Dr. Cody Schal said.

So what can be done about it?

Researchers are currently working on alternative ways to combat viruses and bacteria. Copper has been used for centuries for hygienic purposes. The ancient Egyptians used it to sterilize drinking water and wounds, while ancient Greek physician Hippocrates also treated wounds and skin irritations with it.

In the last 200 years, various researchers have found that copper inhibits bacteria, viruses, fungi and molds. Some hospitals are now experimenting with copper to see if it will control MRSA. St. Francis hospital in County Westmeath, Ireland, changed their taps, push plates for toilets and door handles to copper.

Scientists at the University of Southampton, UK, have presented research from the US on how copper is anti-microbial to resistant species.

“Copper's rapid destruction of pathogens could prevent mutational resistance developing and also help reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance genes to receptive and potentially more virulent organisms, as well as genes responsible for virulence. Additionally, copper touch surfaces could have a key role in preventing the transmission of healthcare-associated infections. Extensive laboratory tests have demonstrated copper's antimicrobial efficacy against key organisms responsible for these infections, and clinical trials around the world are now reporting on its efficacy in busy, real-world environments.”

The research, funded by the US Department of Defense, revealed that when copper surfaces were used in intensive care rooms, MRSA infections were reduced by 40 percent.

The hospitals involved in the trial were Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, both in Charleston, South Carolina. They replaced their bed rails, over-bed tray tables, nurse call buttons and IV poles with copper versions.

Dr Michael Schmidt, Professor and Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at MUSC, said, "Bacteria present on ICU room surfaces are probably responsible for 35-80 percent of patient infections, demonstrating how critical it is to keep hospitals clean. The copper objects used in the clinical trial supplemented cleaning protocols, lowered microbial levels, and resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the number of infections contracted by patients treated in those rooms."

This ancient remedy could provide a new solution for our newly evolving drug-resistant world.


Southampton University Press Release, 1st July 2011 -

Antimicrobial Copper, Copper Development Association, page accessed 10th July 2011 - http://www.copperinfo.co.uk/antimicrobial/#throughtheages

Irish Hospital First to Harness Copper Technology to Fight Infections, Copper Development Association Press Release, 11th January 2010 - http://www.copperinfo.co.uk/news/press-releases/PR772-first-hospital-specifies-copper.pdf

Antifungal Drug Resistance: A Focus on Candida, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, June 1997 - http://www.nfid.org/publications/fungal_archive/candida.html

Bordetella Pertussis Strains with Increased Toxin Production Associated with Pertussis Resurgence, Emerging Infectious Diseases • www.cdc.gov/eid • Vol. 15, No. 8, August 2009 - http://gaia-health.com/articles451/000485-bpertussis.pdf

Superbugs from Swine? Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found in Flies, Roaches on Hog Farms, North Carolina State University Press Release, 28th January 2011 - http://news.ncsu.edu/releases/014mkschalantibiotic/

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

Reviewed July 11, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Kate Kunkel

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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