Only last month, the scientific and the medical community reported that the novel coronavirus that paves the way for the COVID-19 pandemic can survive on hard surfaces such as glass and stainless steel for days can die within hours if they will land on copper. Perhaps the only thing that can be surprising here is that, if you have a prior awareness that copper is lethal to microbial life, viruses, and bacteria, is that they last longer on copper.
As a microbiology researcher from the University of Southampton (UK), Bill Keevil has been involved in 2-decade comprehensive research and study on copper and how its antimicrobial properties work. He was able to watch in his own laboratory how this lowly metal whacked one bad bug after another. His findings on his research are very significant today now that we are facing the coronavirus scare.
His initial research had him work first on a bacteria that will lead to the Legionnaire’s Disease. After this, his research team worked on drug-resistant infections such as the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). His laboratory tools also worked on viruses that have rendered the world to go in a frenzied panic over the MERS virus, otherwise known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome as well as 2009’s H1N1 virus that gave birth to the Swine Flu.
In each of the cases identified above, the pathogen was extinguished within minutes of contact with copper material. Come the year 2015, Keevil had his eye on Coronavirus 229E. This particular strain of the virus is closely related to the COVID-19 virus that induces pneumonia and the common cold.
As expected, copper seamlessly zapped the virus in just a few minutes. At the same time also, it remained highly infectious on surfaces that he deliberately contaminated with such as glass and stainless steel.
There is a notable irony here.
It is very observable that in many public facilities stainless steel is the most favored material to use. Say for instance, check out the public train systems, supermarket chains, shopping malls, and airport facilities.
All of them make use of stainless steel in their handrail system , and other similar safety and security features. The underlying reason for the ubiquity of stainless steel has something to do with its seemingly clean look.
But the underlying question here is, how often do we clean stainless steel handrails and bars? Honestly, we don’t clean them enough. Not as often as we should, and not as thorough as necessary.
In complete contrast to this, copper (in its inherent antimicrobial property) remains clean, germ-free, and bacteria-free by just remaining there.
Our suggestion here is, if companies involved in the manufacture of bed sticks and rails will have a way of making copper as the base material for their product offerings, then it comes to follow that they will be highly resistant to bacteria, fungal, and viral contamination, too.
The use of stainless steel may not provide us the milestone solution that we desperately need nowadays amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but moving forward integrating copper instead of stainless steel in how we design and manufacture bed sticks and rails will somehow give us an assurance that will deter viral and bacterial contamination.
Perhaps we can do the same thing also for handlebars and handrails in public train stations and other similar transport facilities. With this in mind, the odds that we will thwart another bacterial or viral outbreak in the future is high.
Gold and silver are examples of heavy metals, and they come with anti-microorganism properties, too. However, copper comes with a specific atomic makeup that renders it highly potent against different kinds of microorganisms. This includes bacteria, fungus, and the most sinister of them all, the virus.
Delving deeper to its atomic structure, copper comes with a free electron. You will find this in the outer orbital electrons shell and is taking a significant role in oxidation-reduction reactions. It is also among the reasons why copper is such an excellent conductor of electricity.
It is our fervent hope that there will be more funding for research on this matter. We need to have a better understanding of how the antimicrobial properties of copper can be taken advantage of for us to gain healthier life.