Michael Norden MD
Paul Herscu ND, MPH
Paul Herscu ND, MPH
The rapid emergence of superbugs, resistant to essentially all drugs, threatens to return us to the horrors of the pre-antibiotic era, where countless people died from common infections. The answer to this crisis may eventually come from advances in biotechnology, which ironically helped create the problem to begin with, but until that day, we would like to propose an ancient approach as a potential answer. Here, I condense a 4-year conversation I have had with my friend Michael Norden MD, involving copper, which reflects part of my 40-year interest in this element. What follows are our thoughts on using copper as a passive yet potent antibacterial.
Some of the most exciting aspects of living in these times are the rapid discoveries occurring in science, related to our habitat in the natural world and especially on the cellular and subcellular level. As we are discovering more and more types of germs, we are having to come to terms with the implications of our discoveries. There are more types of germs than we ever imagined; the germs that surround us and are in us determine to a significant extent, our health. Regarding prevention, the concept of developing an individual vaccine for a specific germ soon becomes unwieldy, as it seems impractical to vaccinate ourselves against hundreds or thousands of potentially pathogenic bugs. Even the common influenza vaccine sometimes fails us. For example, this year, vaccine manufacturers predicted incorrectly and the vaccine developed appears to be only 10 to 20% effective. Regarding treatment, we have learned that we can not simply kill infectious agents, because germs adapt to become more virulent. The rapid and ubiquitous use of antimicrobials has led to superbugs threatening our therapeutic efficacy and creating dire challenges to our species. We often lose the battle with germs that perhaps we should not be fighting in the current manner in first place. Instead of active antimicrobial use, and instead of prevention solely by developing a specific vaccine for each germ, we may need to develop a third wave of thought, one focusing on passive antimicrobial coatings that do not create superbugs, which is where copper stands as one possibility.
The EPA has now certified over 400 alloys as “antimicrobial copper.” Certification allows the claim of 99.9% of bacteria will be killed within 2 hours. Published studies show this efficacy against all types of pathologic microbes including resistant bacteria such as MRSA as well as many viruses and fungi. Microorganisms tested succumb to the copper effect.