A new research suggests that copper can be the next weapon in the fight against deadly respiratory diseases. New research from the University of Southampton has found that copper can effectively help to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which are linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Animal coronaviruses that 'host jump' to humans, such as SARS and MERS, result in severe infections with high mortality. The Southampton researchers found that a closely-related human coronavirus - 229E - can remain infectious on common surface materials for several days, but is rapidly destroyed on copper.
‘Copper can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which are linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome. Research has found that a closely-related human coronavirus - 229E - can remain infectious on common surface materials for several days, but is rapidly destroyed on copper.
The study showed that human coronavirus 229E, which produces a range of respiratory symptoms from the common cold to more lethal outcomes such as pneumonia, can survive on surface materials including ceramic tiles, glass, rubber and stainless steel for at least five days. While human-to-human transmission is important, infections can be contracted by touching surfaces contaminated by respiratory droplets from infected individuals, or hand touching, leading to a wider and more rapid spread.
Exposure to copper destroyed the virus completely and irreversibly, leading the researchers to conclude that antimicrobial copper surfaces could be employed in communal areas and at any mass gatherings to help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses and protect public health. Lead researcher Sarah Warnes said that transmission of infectious diseases via contaminated surfaces is far more important than was originally thought, and this includes viruses that cause respiratory infections.
This is especially important when the infectious dose is low and just a few virus particles can initiate an infection. The study is published in mBio
, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.