SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

Study finds copper may destroy norovirus

Copper and copper alloys rapidly destroy norovirus, a highly-infectious bug that can spread from contact with contaminated surfaces, according to a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom.

Norovirus spreads from contaminated water or food, person-to-person contact and contact with contaminated surfaces. The virus causes more than 267 million cases of acute gastroenteritis around the world each year and outbreaks regularly shut down care homes and hospital wards. The research found that surfaces made from copper could effectively prevent one method of infection.

Bill Keevil, a chair in environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, presented his research on the subject last week at the American Society for Microbiology's 2013 general meeting.

"Copper alloy surfaces can be employed in high-risk areas such as cruise ships and care homes, where norovirus outbreaks are hard to control because infected people can't help but contaminate the environment with vomiting and diarrhea," Keevil said.

The research found the norovirus was rapidly destroyed on copper and alloys with more than 60 percent copper. Keevil and his colleagues used a contamination model to simulate fingertip-touch contamination of surfaces.

"The virus can remain infectious on solid surfaces and is also resistant to many cleaning solutions," Keevil said. "That means it can spread to people who touch these surfaces, causing further infections and maintaining the cycle of infection. Copper surfaces, like door handles and taps, can disrupt the cycle and lower the risk of outbreaks."