Dr. Copper learns to kill poisonous norovirus

Uses of copper in medicine keep expanding with a recent study from Southampton University researchers showing the red metal and its alloys are able to swiftly destroy the food poisoning bug norovirus.

The infection, responsible for more than 267 million cases of acute gastroenteritis every year, can be contracted from contaminated food or water, person-to-person contact, and contact with contaminated surfaces, meaning surfaces made from copper could effectively shut down one avenue of infection.

Copper touch surfaces rapidly kill not only bacteria and fungi, but also viruses such as influenza and norovirus, says leading expert and Chair in Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton, Professor Bill Keevil.

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He highlighted that copper alloy surfaces can be employed in high-risk areas, such cruise ships and care homes, where norovirus outbreaks are hard to control because infected people can't help but contaminate the enclosed environment through vomiting and diarrhoea.

"The virus can remain infectious on solid surfaces and is also resistant to many cleaning solutions. That means it can spread to people who touch these surfaces, causing further infections and maintaining the cycle of infection. Copper surfaces, like door handles and taps, can disrupt the cycle and lower the risk of outbreaks," he said.

Keevil presented his work at the American Society for Microbiology's 2013 general meeting last week.

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