Copper-surfaced fixtures can reduce the risk of hand-transmitted infection outbreaks in eldercare facilities, a new study has found.

The researchers investigated four documented outbreaks in a nursing home with two distinct wings. One wing was equipped with copper fixtures such as support bars, doorknobs and railings, and the other was not. The infection outbreaks included influenza, keratoconjunctivitis, and infectious diarrhea.

Residents who lived in the wing with copper fixtures had a significantly lower risk of contracting hand-transmitted disease (eye infection and diarrhea) when compared to their peers in the other wing. The risk for contracting the airborne infection (influenza) was similar in both wings, reported Sarah Zerbib, M.D., and colleagues from Reims University Hospitals, France.

The “installation of antimicrobial copper or copper-containing surfaces could represent a relatively simple measure to help prevent healthcare-associated infections in nursing homes,” the study team concluded.

Copper’s antimicrobial properties have been recognized for thousands of years. More recently, copper surfaces have been shown to help reduce infection risk in hospital settings.

The study was published in JAMDA.