Research highlights bacterial reduction on copper stethoscope surfaces

9th of May 2017
Research highlights bacterial reduction on copper stethoscope surfaces

New clinical research has highlighted the risk of bacterial transmission via stethoscopes between patients and healthcare workers and shows how antimicrobial copper components can play a part in addressing the issue.

Published in the American Journal of Infection Control, the two-centre study aimed to assess the efficacy of antimicrobial copper surfaces in reducing bacterial concentration on stethoscope surfaces in busy clinical environments.

Stethoscopes come into frequent contact with the skin of patients and the skin and clothing of healthcare workers, yet routine cleaning and disinfection is not consistent, posing a risk of bacterial transmission between patients and staff.

Copper is an antimicrobial with broad-spectrum efficacy against bacteria and viruses. It shares this benefit with a range of copper alloys - such as brasses and bronzes- forming a family of solid materials called ‘antimicrobial copper'.

The trial involved 21 healthcare practitioners and was carried out in departments across two hospitals.

The study stethoscopes were identical in design to the control devices, but incorporated touch components - chest pieces, ear tubes, braiding over PVC binaural tubing, and diaphragms-made from antimicrobial copper. The number of bacteria on different parts of the copper and control stethoscope surfaces were counted and compared after one week of use on four separate occasions.

The results showed levels of bacteria routinely exceeding the proposed hospital hygiene standard-5 colony-forming units (CFU) per cm2- on the urethane rims of all stethoscopes tested (copper and control), with levels exceeding 300 CFU/cm2 on the paediatric emergency department samples.

The total number of bacteria recovered from all the copper stethoscope surfaces was significantly lower than the control equivalents (127.1 CFU/cm2, P < .00001). This equates to a 91 per cent reduction.

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