Metal handles at public places to fight superbugs: Study

London: Fitting metal door-knobs, handles and handrails in public places and hospitals can help combat infections from superbugs, scientists say.

Plastic and stainless steel surfaces, widely used in hospitals and public settings, allow bacteria to survive and spread when people touch them.

Researchers found that copper and alloys made from the metal, including brass, can prevent antibiotic resistance in bacteria from spreading, `The Telegraph` reported.

They said even if the bacteria die, DNA that gives them resistance to antibiotics can survive and be passed on to other bacteria on on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

However, copper and brass can kill these bacteria and also destroy their DNA.

"There are a lot of bugs on our hands that we are spreading around by touching surfaces. In a public building or mass transport, surfaces cannot be cleaned for long periods of time," said Professor Bill Keevil, head of the microbiology group at Southampton University, said.

"Until relatively recently brass was a relatively commonly used surface. On stainless steel surfaces these bacteria can survive for weeks, but on copper surfaces they die within minutes.

"Part of the process DNA from bacteria is also destroyed just as rapidly on the copper, so you cannot get gene transfer on the surface," Keevil said.

As many as 43,000 people a year are infected in hospitals with antibiotic resistant bacteria MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

Antibiotic resistance usually occurs in a single bacterium that then multiplies and passes on this resistance to other bacteria around them, the report said.
Keevil and his colleagues found that compared to stainless steel bacteria on copper surfaces bacterial DNA rapidly degraded at room temperature.

"We live in this new world of stainless steel and plastic, but perhaps we should go back to using brass more instead," Keevil added.

The study was published in the journal Molecular Genetics of Bacteria.


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