Copper kills germs! Startup’s copper spray aimed at reducing hospital-acquired infections

It’s long been established that copper works as an effective antimicrobial – but it’s still a costly proposition to make every doorknob, keyboard and toilet seat out of the ubiquitous metal. San Diego-area startup LuminOre Copper Touch has developed an alternative solution: It’s created a copper cold spray so that surfaces can be coated with the stuff – at a […]

It’s long been established that copper works as an effective antimicrobial – but it’s still a costly proposition to make every doorknob, keyboard and toilet seat out of the ubiquitous metal.

San Diego-area startup LuminOre Copper Touch has developed an alternative solution: It’s created a copper cold spray so that surfaces can be coated with the stuff – at a fraction of the cost.

The startup’s still waiting on the go-ahead from the Environmental Protection Agency to commercialize its product. But once it’s greenlighted, LuminOre plans to begin marketing its copper spray to hospitals as a long-lasting anti-infective surface coat.

University of California, Los Angeles actually got a $2.5 million, five-year grant back in 2012 to test out the efficacy of copper surfaces in preventing disease spread. It’s using LuminOre’s product, said Alfred Mitchell, the company’s medical director, outfitting 34 of its ICU rooms with furniture and hardware that’s been coated with copper.

The general idea, Mitchell said, is that copper releases radicals that disrupt the cell membrane – well before biofilms can accumulate and allow bacteria to proliferate. And while microbes can develop resistance to chemicals, they remain susceptible to copper. Mitchell says even viruses like Ebola denature when in contact with the element.

Hospitals are LuminOre’s first target, but the startup foresees applications in a number of sectors – food service, nursing homes, daycares, gyms… Cruise lines have contacted the company, Mitchell said, to enquire about how to integrate its technology into their ships. It plans to outlicense its copper spray technology, for which it holds the patent.

Conclusion? In this era of medication resistance and still-rampant disease spread, we may have a bright, shiny, copper-colored future ahead.

[Image courtesy of LuminOre Copper Touch]