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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

New study shows how copper restricts the spread of global antibiotic-resistant infections

Published: 4 December 2012
Professor Bill Keevil

New research led by Professor Bill Keevil, Chair in Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton, has shown that copper can prevent horizontal transmission of genes, which has contributed to the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide.

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in bacteria is largely responsible for the development of antibiotic-resistance, which has led to an increasing number of difficult-to-treat healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs).


Defeating hospital superbugs
Professor Bill Keevil

Professor Keevil explains: "We know many human pathogens survive for long periods in the hospital environment and can lead to infection, expensive treatment, blocked beds and death.  What we have shown in this work is the potential for strategically-placed antimicrobial copper touch surfaces to not only break the chain of contamination, but also actively reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance developing at the same time."

"Copper touch surfaces have promise for preventing antibiotic resistance transfer in public buildings and mass transportation systems, which lead to local and - in the case of jet travel - rapid worldwide dissemination of multi-drug resistant superbugs as soon as they appear."

The newly-published paper appears in the journal mBio.

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