A number of studies have been conducted recently, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, that substantiate the age-old hypotheses of Copper being an essential metal to combat infectious diseases. Leading researchers from around the world are providing evidence to the anti-microbial properties of Copper. Top universities such as Oxford University, University of Waterloo, University of Southampton, among others have established the importance of Copper in fighting infectious diseases, especially COVID-19.
Copper surfaces can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission
The study titled, ‘Is copper beneficial for COVID-19 patients?’ published in Medical Hypotheses (Volume 142, September 2020), claims that Copper is an essential micronutrient for both pathogens and hosts during a viral infection as it interferes in the functioning of critical immune cells in blood which are primarily involved in the elimination of infectious microbes and production of antibodies against the pathogens. Additionally, Copper deficiency in humans make their bodies susceptible to infections and leads to a decreased ability to fight these infections.
Being an airborne disease, COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through the exposure of droplets in the air as well as their accumulation on surfaces. The study conducted by researchers from University of Southampton, ‘Rapid inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 on copper touch surfaces determined using a cell culture infectivity assay’ confirmed that Copper inactivates SARS-CoV-2 in 1 minute while surfaces that were made of plastics, glass, metal, etc. took hours to inactivate the virus.
In India, many healthcare experts are advocating the use of Copper. Talking about the use of Copper and its alloys in combating infections, Dr. Anukant Mittal, Professor & Head of Department, Rajiv Gandhi Medical College said, “Copper and its alloys, such as brass, bronze and others, are one of the world’s most effective material in reducing pathogen density. These materials have the ability to eliminate or inactivate microbes, such as bacteria, fungi (including moulds) and viruses and works 24/7 to eliminate pathogens that cause infectious diseases without human intervention.”
He added, “Interestingly, in 2013, installation of copper alloy in touch surfaces of ICU pods in Tata Memorial Hospital revealed there was significant reduction and difference in microbial bioburden (MB) on each of the surfaces in the areas installed with copper. The touch surfaces included in each bed unit included footrails, bedrails, bed sider table, over the bed table and Intravenous Fluids Stand. The current raw analysis shows a difference of bioburden on the touch surfaces between the two (2) ICU Pods – with and without copper.”
Mr. Neeraj Lal, Chief Operating Officer, Apollo Hospitals said, “In these times, scientists are once again recognizing the impact of copper and its alloys – collectively termed ‘antimicrobial copper’. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as India has had a long-term association of use of Copper for various applications like drinkware, idols and curios among others. Copper was a mainstay in the medical chests of the ancient Egyptians, who performed complex medical operations using copper alloy instruments and alleviated infections with copper-containing salves. In addition, copper vessels are still used in India to store water as it is widely recognized to limit the growth of harmful pathogens. Copper vessels are still used in India to store water as it is widely recognized to limit the growth of harmful pathogens.”
Whether it is the ability to fight pathogens in the body via bloodstream, through water borne infections or transmission of pathogens through external surfaces, Copper is one of the most efficient metals that curbs the transmission of potentially menacing viral infections including COVID-19. Historically, Indians have been using Copper vessels to store drinking water since centuries as it is an established fact that Copper offers antimicrobial properties. Similarly, in ancient Egypt, Copper was used to combat sore throat and infections.
Adding to the historical significance of Copper, Professor Prashant Singh, Director, Centre for Innovation in Governance at Rashtram School of Leadership, Rishihood University said, “Copper or Tamra has been known for at least 5,000 years in Indic knowledge systems and has emerged as a new (but a well-established ancient) candidate in the war against disease on two planes: surface-based and water-borne transmission of disease vectors. A well-publicized New England Journal of Medicine article authored by van Doremalen et al. shows that the COVID-19 Coronavirus retains infectivity on a variety of common surfaces like plastic and 304 Stainless Steel for 48 to 72 hours. In contrast, it was inactivated in 4 hours on a 99.9% copper alloy.”