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New copper coating could be the next superbug fighter

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A new copper coating that kills bacteria faster and in greater quantities than current formulations could soon be available for hospitals and other high-traffic facilities.

Although current formulations of pure copper are antibacterial and self-cleaning, they kill certain types of bacteria with a thicker cell wall (Gram positive bacteria), more slowly than bacteria with a thinner cell wall (Gram negative).

A team of UBC researchers led by Dr. Amanda Clifford, an assistant professor in the department of materials science, has designed a nanocopper coating with bactericidal nanoscale features and zinc. The nanoscale features are tiny bumps that can kill bacteria by tearing their cell wall. Zinc, which is also antibacterial, oxidizes selectively in the presence of copper and helps kill bacteria faster compared to pure copper alone.

“Using our coating could significantly reduce the incidence of bacterial infections of high-touch surfaces in healthcare facilities, such as doorknobs and elevator knobs, as it kills bacteria using multiple approaches,” said Dr. Clifford. “Because it contains less copper than other existing coatings or whole copper parts, it would also be cheaper to make.”

The team found that the material took just one hour to kill 99.7 percent of Staphylococcus aureus — a Gram-positive pathogen commonly responsible for hospital-acquired infections — compared with two hours for pure copper.

“Not only does this coating kill pathogens faster than pure copper, it helps ensure antibiotics remain effective,” says Dr. Clifford. “By using this new formulation, we are killing pathogens before patients become infected and have to take antibiotics against them, slowing the emergence of antibiotic resistance.”

The researchers have filed a provisional patent for the coating and manufacturing process, which is described in a new paper in Advanced material interfaces.

“This is currently targeting hospitals and healthcare facilities, because these are locations where the antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), are a problem. We also don’t want to be in a place where we can’t use antibiotics,” he says. Dr Clifford.

The team plans to further evaluate the material against other pathogens, such as viruses, in hopes of eventually commercializing their work.


Scientists use copper nanowires to fight the spread of disease


More information:
Davood Nakhaie et al, An Engineered Nanocomposite Copper Coating with Enhanced Antibacterial Efficacy, Advanced material interfaces (2022). DOI: 10.1002/admi.202201009

Provided by the University of British Columbia


Quote: New copper coating could be the next superbug fighter (2022, July 28) retrieved July 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-copper-coating-superbug-fighter.html

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