Killing Bacteria Quicker With New Nano-Copper Coating

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have created a nano-copper coating that can kill bacteria on surfaces more quickly and in greater amounts than existing coatings. 

The anti-bacterial and self-sanitizing coatings currently in use are made of pure copper, which functions well, but kills bacteria with a thicker cell wall (Gram-positive bacteria) more slowly than bacteria with a thinner cell wall (Gram-negative).

The new coating incorporates zinc – which is antibacterial and selectively oxidizes in the presence of copper – to aid in killing bacteria more rapidly. It also contains nanoscale features – small bumps which can kill bacteria by rupturing their cell walls. The new material took only one hour to kill 99.7% of Staphylococcus aureus – a Gram-positive pathogen often responsible for hospital-acquired infections – compared to two hours for pure copper coatings. The team has plans to further evaluate the material against other pathogens, such as viruses.

“Use of our coating could significantly reduce the incidence of contracting bacterial infections from high-touch surfaces in healthcare facilities, such as doorknobs and elevator buttons since it kills bacteria using multiple approaches,” said Dr. Amanda Clifford, the team leader. “As it contains less copper than other existing coatings or whole copper parts, it would also be cheaper to make. Not only does this coating kill pathogens faster than pure copper, it helps ensure antibiotics remain effective. By using this new formulation, we’re killing pathogens before patients become infected and need to use antibiotics against them, slowing the rise of antibiotic resistance. This is currently targeted for hospitals and health care settings because these locations are where the antibiotic-resistant pathogens are an issue.”