Copper surfaces in nursing homes could help control norovirus, researchers say

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Nursing homes should consider installing more copper surfaces to prevent outbreaks of norovirus among residents and staff, according to new research out of the United Kingdom.

Researchers from the University of Southampton conducted tests simulating how norovirus is transmitted when people touch contaminated surfaces. They discovered that surfaces made out of copper and copper alloy reduced a gene associated with a viral encoded protein. Surfaces composed of at least 60% copper were especially effective, they found.

“The use of antimicrobial surfaces containing copper in clinical and community environments, such as cruise ships and care facilities, could help to reduce the spread of this highly infectious and costly pathogen,” said lead author Sarah Warnes, a research fellow at the Centre for Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton.

Long-term care providers in the United States were hit hard by a norovirus outbreak last fall. Out of 141 outbreaks between September and December, 65% occurred in long-term care settings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study on copper appears in the current issue of PLOS One.

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