Sentara Williamsburg fighting in-hospital infections with copper

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Based on a recent clinical trial at Norfolk’s Sentara Leigh Hospital, Sentara Williamsburg will begin using anti-microbial copper-infused sheets, gowns, bed handrails and bedside tables. (Courtesy Sentara)
Based on a recent clinical trial at Norfolk’s Sentara Leigh Hospital, Sentara Williamsburg will begin using anti-microbial copper-infused sheets, gowns, bed handrails and bedside tables. (Courtesy Sentara)

Patients at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center will be seeing copper this year.

Based on a recent clinical trial at Norfolk’s Sentara Leigh Hospital, Sentara Williamsburg will begin using anti-microbial copper-infused sheets, gowns, bed handrails and bedside tables, Sentara said in a release. The copper-infused linens come in tan and salmon colors.

The move comes in a bid to use copper’s infection-fighting properties as a tool against healthcare associated infections. HAIs are bacterial, viral, fungal or other infections patients can get while being treated for something else in hospitals and health-care facilities, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

An estimated one in 25 patients develop infections related to hospital care, leading to tens of thousands of deaths and an annual cost to the U.S. health care system of billions of dollars, ODPHP says on its website.

“I really feel like this is the way of the future,” Donna Wilmoth, Sentara’s vice president of patient care services and chief nurse executive, said in a phone interview. 

The rollout is coming to fruition with the help of technology developed by two in-state businesses. 

The copper-treated tables and bedrails are manufactured by Norfolk-based EOS Surfaces LLC. They are infused with copper oxide, according to CEO Ken Trinder. The copper oxide ions recognize moisture, which is how they attack and destroy microbes, he explained.

microbe busters
Copper-infused linens and patient gowns are being introduced at Sentara’s Williamsburg hospital, with the goal of reducing infections. (Courtesy Sentara)

Cupron Inc., a Richmond-based biotech firm, developed the antimicrobial medical textiles.

“It was a partnership,” Trinder said.

A recent study published in The American Journal of Infection Control found that using copper-infused textiles in a long-term care hospital ward with patients who were on ventilators was tied to a “significant reduction” in HAI indicators, such as antibiotic use. The study was supported by Cupron, with one of its employees cited as a researcher. 

Sentara’s 10-month clinical trial at Leigh Hospital similarly reported a reduction in HAIs from using copper products.

Specifically, researchers found that using copper-infused hard surfaces and bed linens led to an 83-percent decline in Clostridium difficile (known as “C. diff”) and a 78-percent decrease in multidrug- resistant organisms, such as C. diff, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE).

Results of a second clinical trial of copper products at three Sentara hospitals are expected later this year, the release said; all twelve Sentara hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina are switching to copper-treated products.

“We’re just really excited to be able to bring it to the Williamsburg area,” Wilmoth said.