Researchers have theorized that covering frequently covered surfaces with copper can reduce the risk of harmful bugs spreading from one person to another in hospitals.
"It is a simple, elegant solution," Globe and Mail quoted Michael Schmidt, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, as saying.
In a pilot study, the researchers used copper instead of stainless steel and plastic for bed rails, tray tables, call buttons, IV poles and chair arms.
Culture swabs revealed the level of microbes had "dropped well below what is considered to be a risk," Dr. Schmidt said.
"And it doesn't need any intervention other than normal cleaning." Talking about copper's ability to kill microbes, Schmidt said, "What I think is probably happening is that microbes are literally short-circuiting."
He is now planning to do a large clinical trial to determine whether reducing the number of microbes on hospital surfaces actually translates into fewer infections. "Hospital administrators are reluctant to make capital purchases [of copper equipment] unless we can demonstrate a clear-cut benefit to patients."
The findings were presented at a recent medical conference in Atlanta.