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“We’re unravelling nature’s biggest gift”

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How UK med-tech developers are harnessing an elemental superpower in the fight against COVID-19.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, UK company Copper Clothing has applied its patented copper-infused fabric to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and hopes its technology will be used to prevent future pandemics.

Coronavirus can survive on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces for as long as 3 days. In comparison, recent research has shown that the virus can live on copper for just four hours.

The engineered copper fabric used in Copper Clothing’s face mask are currently being tested by the National Archives and Records Administration at a research institute in South Korea. Preliminary results suggest that coronavirus can be destroyed by the material in just 60 seconds.

CEO of Copper Clothing, Rory Donnelly, says: “Our independently verified research showcases the effectiveness of copper in irreversibly destroying the lipid jacket that makes up the enveloped coronavirus within a matter of minutes of contact.

“As the most abundant metal in the world, we should be applying copper’s power to everyday surfaces, from trolley handles to lift buttons, to fight not only coronavirus but prevent future pandemics.

In addition to face masks, the Copper Clothing produces bed sheets, pyjamas, socks and underwear, gloves and insoles. The company says the benefits of its products range from preventing surgical site infections to reducing foot odour.

Donnelly says: “For material that has been known about for millennia, copper infused products are not widely used. The power of copper is still relatively new to people. This is what makes the products we are developing so exciting; the technology is still in its infancy.

“Our face masks were designed to offer superior protection and act as a first line of defence against pathogenic microbes, which other masks and coverings cannot provide.

“The Lancet Medical Journal reported that Coronavirus lasted on the outside of a surgical mask for seven days. In contrast, we are highlighting the ability of copper infused fabrics to destroy Coronavirus within minutes of contact.”

Interestingly, copper has been used throughout history as protection against bacteria, fungi and viruses. The metal is thought to have been utilised by the Egyptians as early as 2,400 B.C. to sterilise and dress wounds.

Copper’s antimicrobial properties are a result of what is called the oligodynamic effect; the ability of small amounts of certain metals to destroy pathogenic cells. Copper Clothing identified copper to be the most potent and cost-effective of these metals, in part due to its electrical conductivity.

Copper ions are known to cause a reaction that electrostatically destroy the outer cell membrane of pathogenic microbes.

The puncturing of the outer cell allows the ions to then destroy the RNA or DNA of the cell which prevents it from replicating, meaning it is unable to become resistant to copper.

Copper Clothing says copper is a more effective anti-microbial agent than other agents such as nano silver, which is currently used on a wider scale, but poses greater environmental risks.

According to NICE, the NHS spends over £20 million a year on silver dressings, however Donnelly says copper-infused wound dressings are more cost-effective and have been proven to be more effective in its ability to prevent infections.

Donnelly says: “Silver is more expensive as a resource and it doesn’t work as an anti-bacterial without the presence of moisture and humidity. It also creates huge environmental issues.

“Silver cannot be land-filled due to its toxic nature and because it is dissolvable, silver can wash out after just five washes, finding its way into local water system; an environmental disaster.

“Copper, on the other hand, is abundant, sustainable, environmentally friendly and non-soluble. It should be used as a front line of infection prevention rather than kept in locked cabinets on hospital wards.”

Copper Clothing says its products have all undergone extensive independently verified testing. It’s most recent research projects into the antimicrobial properties of copper-infused fabric were carried out by the company’s manufacturing partner in China and South Korea.

The former yielded a log 4 (99.99%) reduction against Swine Flu and the latter found a log 3.63 reduction against the same virus.

The company is now testing its technology on COVID-19 in partnership with the Korea Testing & Research Institute, South Korean start-up, MediFiber and the National Archives and Records Administration.

Donnelly says early results have found that copper-infused fabrics have a 99.99% success rate at killing COVID-19.

Aside from its applications in the fight against coronavirus, Copper Clothing says the metal has the potential to help prevent a wide range of healthcare issues, including sepsis, MRSA, skin induration and infected pressure ulcers.

A double blind randomised controlled trial on caesarean section carried out by Copper Clothing showed a 38.7% reduction in overall surgical site infection rate with the use of a copper-infused wound dressing.

The company believes these results demonstrate the potential of copper as an alternative to antibiotics in the treatment hospital acquired infections; a timely discovery given the risks of antibiotic resistance, which is expected to kill more people than cancer by 2050.

In 2016, the Copper Clothing carried out three double-blind clinical studies in conjunction with the Croydon University NHS Hospital, involving approximately 1,000 participants.

The study, which aimed to test the effectiveness of copper in reducing infection rates, yielded positive results. Copper Clothing has now been invited back to the hospital to expand the research with three additional NHS clinical studies.

Connelly hopes this will demonstrate the cost and environmental saving potential of copper for healthcare bodies and governments.

“We are building a cost-effective technology which can replace the conventional dressing, making it the first line of treatment to prevent infections,” Donnelly says.

“In its simplest form this can be seen by the cost of comparing silver per ounce versus copper per ounce.

“However, the cost-saving is not just limited to the price of our technology, but also on a wider level by reducing the ongoing costs associated with treating the complications of infections.”

Although copper is not currently used on a large scale within the healthcare sector, Copper Clothing are aiming to build awareness and the credibility of copper infusion.

Donnelly adds: “Only through collaboration with other global organisations and partners will we be able to realise the full potential of copper in improving lives.

“We are ultimately unravelling nature’s biggest gift, the anti-microbial power of copper, it deserves to reach all corners of the world in an affordable and cost-effective manner.

“We are still learning more about the properties of copper. There is further potential to realise the true benefits of copper through our research and testing.

“Hopefully one day it will be used to help prevent future pandemics.”

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