Copper As Anti-Viral Material Part II
The first article we wrote on Copper’s Anti-viral Properties was simply an introduction into copper’s ability to inactivate a wide variety of viruses. There is actually a lot of interesting research available and we thought this information was worth sharing.
The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has rocked the world, with over 14 million cases and 600 thousand deaths globally as of July 2020.1 A major concern is the virus’s ability to remain on surfaces that infected people have touched, causing new infections when another person touches the area. Copper surfaces have been shown to kill the virus that causes Covid-19 in 4 hours, whereas the virus can remain on stainless steel and plastic for 72 hours.2 In hospital settings where stainless steel is the preferred surface, this finding about copper has the potential to make a large impact on the spread of Covid-19 within hospitals. Schools and facilities with high-density or lots of foot traffic could greatly benefit from switching to copper surfaces in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Both the developed and the developing world suffer disease outbreaks from persistent pathogens. Norovirus is a ubiquitous virus responsible for most of the hundreds of millions of cases of gastroenteritis yearly in the world – which causes vomiting and diarrhea and can be deadly.3 Outbreaks can cause chaos in hospitals, schools, restaurants, and cruise ships.3 Copper alloy surfaces were shown to damage the norovirus capsid and the genetic material inside, killing the virus and preventing it from replicating.4
Yearly flu outbreaks effect millions of people globally, causing both illness and death, especially for children and the elderly.5 While seasonal vaccines are available, the virus mutates and returns every year.5 One study showed that copper surfaces inactivated the Influenza A virus in 6 hours, whereas stainless steel was much less effective.6 Other researchers also tested nano-copper coatings created by spraying the nano copper onto existing surfaces. They found that it was even more effective at killing the influenza A virus than traditional copper surfaces, with over 99% reduction in the virus in 2 hours.7 This research is encouraging because it means that hospitals and schools could potentially spray nano copper onto existing surfaces, rather than replacing existing structures and surfaces, which could be more costly.
There are various metals that have proven useful in drinking water filters – such as silver – but what about copper? A study found that a carbon water filter with copper oxide nanoparticles was able to inactivate virus particles while keeping copper levels below the accepted limits for drinking water.8 As copper is a less expensive than metal than silver, this could be a more cost effective filter for developing countries.
Mosquitoes as virus vectors
Mosquitoes are referred to as “disease vectors” because they spread the parasites that cause deadly viruses like Zika and West Nile. Mosquitoes breed in pools of still water, which makes it notoriously hard to control their populations, especially in wet, tropical climates. Pesticides can be dangerous for the environment and the health of the people in the area, so some researchers decided to try a spray with copper. Metallic copper spray was able to kill almost all mosquito larvae that live in stagnant water pools.9 The copper spray was cost effective and resulted in copper levels below limits for drinking water, indicating that it would not be a threat to the environment or human health if used as a pesticide.9
Face masks have long been a key hygiene measure for controlling respiratory illness, as they block and trap the droplets that contain viruses, lowering transmission among people. In the fight today against the novel coronavirus, face masks have become a hot topic. N-95 face masks treated with copper oxide were shown to inactivate influenza A virus and avian flu virus better than untreated masks.10 These results are promising not only for the current pandemic, but for all ongoing and seasonal respiratory virus epidemics.
HIV, Dengue, Herpes
As other metals are known to have antiviral properties, it could be worthwhile to mix them together to benefit from their combined effects. A hybrid metal coating of zinc, copper, and silver was shown to inactivate the HIV within 2 hours and influenza, dengue, and herpes simplex viruses after 4 hours.11 The authors of the study hope that these kinds of coatings could be applied to materials in medical settings, such as those that store or contact bodily fluids, to reduce the danger of accidental infections. Other researchers similarly concluded that copper could be integrated into materials like latex gloves and polyester filters to inactivate the HIV virus.12
- “COVID-19 Map.” Coronavirus Resource Center. Johns Hopkins University, n.d. Web. 20 July 2020. <https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html>.
- van Doremalen, Neeltje, et al “Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1.” New England Journal of Medicine 382.16 (2020): 1564-567. Web. 19 July 2020. <https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973>.
- “Norovirus Trends and Outbreaks.” Norovirus Trends and Outbreaks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 June 2018. Web. 20 July 2020. <https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/trends-outbreaks/index.html>.
- Warnes, Sarah, et al. “Inactivation of Murine Norovirus on a Range of Copper Alloy Surfaces Is Accompanied by Loss of Capsid Integrity.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 81.3 (2014): 1085-091. American Society for Microbiology. Web. 19 July 2020. <https://aem.asm.org/content/81/3/1085>.
- “Influenza (Seasonal).” WHO. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 20 July 2020. <https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)>.
- Noyce, J. O, et al. “Inactivation of Influenza A Virus on Copper versus Stainless Steel Surfaces.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 73.8 (2007): 2748-750. NCBI. Web. 19 July 2020. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1855605/>.
- Sundberg, K., et al. “Effectiveness of Nanomaterial Copper Cold Spray Surfaces on Inactivation of Influenza A Virus.” Journal of Biotechnology & Biomaterials 05.04 (2015): n. pag. OMICS. Web. 19 July 2020. <https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/effectiveness-of-nanomaterial-copper-cold-spray-surfaces-on-inactivationof-influenza-a-virus-2155-952X-1000205.php?aid=64558>.
- Shimabuku, Quelen Letícia, et al. “Water Treatment with Exceptional Virus Inactivation Using Activated Carbon Modified with Silver (Ag) and Copper Oxide (CuO) Nanoparticles.” Environmental Technology 38.16 (2016): 2058-069. NCBI. Web. 19 July 2020. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27766917/>.
- Becker, Norbert, et al. “Metallic Copper Spray – a New Control Technique to Combat Invasive Container-inhabiting Mosquitoes.” Parasites & Vectors 8.1 (2015): n. pag. NCBI. Web. 19 July 2020. <9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4640347/>.
- Borkow, Gadi. “A Novel Anti-Influenza Copper Oxide Containing Respiratory Face Mask.” PLoS ONE 5.6 (2010): n. pag. NCBI. Web. 19 July 2020. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892464/>.
- Hodek, Jan, et al. “Protective Hybrid Coating Containing Silver, Copper and Zinc Cations Effective against Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Other Enveloped Viruses.” BMC Microbiology 16.1 (2016): n. pag. BMC Microbiology. Web. 19 July 2020. <https://bmcmicrobiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12866-016-0675-x>.
- Borkow, Gadi, and Jeffrey Gabbay. “Putting Copper into Action: Copper‐impregnated Products with Potent Biocidal Activities.” The FASEB Journal 18.14 (2004): 1728-730. ResearchGate. Web. 19 July 2020. < https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8367053_Putting_copper_into_action_Copper-impregnated_products_with_potent_biocidal_activities>.
Kristine Wagner MHS, CPH
Kristine holds a Master of Health Science in Environmental Health and a Certificate in Risk Science from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a Certified in Public Health Professional by the NBPHE.
She was a Strategic Information Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda supporting HIV/AIDS programs in conjunction with the CDC. She worked as a health scientist at Cardno ChemRisk.
As a student, she conducted environmental health research related to oil development in the Ecuadorian Amazon and wrote her graduate thesis on drinking water contamination from hydraulic fracturing.
She is a professional scuba diving instructor (PADI MSDT) and has worked as a diver in Mexico, Thailand, and Turks & Caicos. She also speaks Spanish and French.