London: The Escherichia coli (E-coli) outbreak in Germany shows that it is a strain seen for the first time, according to the World Health Organisation.
However, the latest findings indicate that copper can halt infections spread by E-coli bugs which contaminate food by releasing toxins.
E.coli is a rod-shaped bug commonly found in the lower intestines of humans and warm blooded animals. Even the presence of a small number of E.coli bugs in the gut can cause life threatening infections.
One of the strains can also cause hemorrhagic colitis and post-diarrheal hemolytic uremic syndrome (D+HUS). HUS is a syndrome that is defined by the destruction of red blood cells, low platelet count and acute kidney failure.
An estimated 85 percent of E.coli O157:H7 strain are food borne as a result of contamination and can survive from several weeks to a year, according to US Centres for Disease Control.
Study leader Bill Keevil, professor and head of microbiology at the University of Southampton, explains: "Although it (the study) did not specifically look at O104:H4 (strain), all the strains investigated have died rapidly on copper."
On a dry copper surface, the study shows that 10 million E. coli bugs are eliminated within 10 minutes. On its wet surface, it takes 45 minutes for a total kill.
This anti-microbial property is inherent to the metal, and shared with alloys such as brass and bronze, according to a Southampton statement.
In the wake of this outbreak, hand washing and careful food preparation have been highlighted as key concerns, as has cross-contamination.
Any raw food placed on a work surface can contaminate other food, or have bacteria transferred onto it from previous items resting there.
Deployed as a touch surface in food preparation areas, copper will continuously kill any pathogens that settle on it, reducing the risk of cross-contamination, and helping to prevent the spread of infection.