Copper’s Anti-Viral Properties Part I
A Brief History of Copper
When most people think of copper, they might think of copper wire, cooking pots, or copper as a colour.
Copper has a long history and has been highly valued for its health benefits.
In the bronze age, Copper was used as the primary metal for making swords and spears, but ironically, it was also used for the healing of wounds caused by those weapons too.
Copper’s medicinal use was first recorded in one of the oldest texts ever discovered, the Smith Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text that described copper’s use to treat infections (Grass, Rensing, & Solioz, 2011).
In ancient China, historical records circa 1600 B.C. notes the use of copper to help ameliorate stomach and heart pain (Morrison, 2020).
The Egyptians and Chinese were not the only civilizations that recognized copper’s health benefits, notably Romans, Aztecs, and Greeks. (Grass, Rensing, & Solioz, 2011).
So too was copper used in the storage of water to keep the water fresh and free from disease.
In the 19th and early 20th century, copper’s health benefits and potential as an anti-microbial came under the spotlight of medical practitioners (Grass, Rensing, & Solioz, 2011) and used in the treatment of a variety of diseases and infections including chronic adenitis, lupus, and facial neuralgia. Copper was frequently used in treatment up until the discovery of antibiotics in 1932 (Grass, Rensing, & Solioz, 2011).
Copper’s Anti-Viral Properties
In modern medicine the use of Copper as an anti-microbial material was a relatively new idea, that is until recently when, necessity being the mother of innovation has once again highlighted copper’s natural anti-viral properties.
Now with even greater emphasis placed on hygiene protocols to reduce the transfer contagions such as COVID-19, copper as a material used to fight disease has garnered even greater importance as a material of choice in health care and personal health and well being.
In particular, the public health sector has been using copper plating on door handles, trolleys, bed rails, benchtops, etc to help reduce hospital-acquired disease and combat microbial strains which, have become resistant to conventional disinfectants.
Copper’s surface is proven to act as a passive disinfectant and this property distinguishes it from other metals such as stainless steel also common metal surface material used in areas where hygiene is an absolute priority e.g. hospitals (Grass, Rensing, & Solioz, 2011).
In one study by Schmidt, the results showed in hospitals where copper surfaces were used there was a 58% reduction of hospital-acquired infections! (Morrison, 2020).
Researchers, Warnes, Little, and Keevil (2015), confirmed copper capable of killing a virus strain within minutes. The study demonstrated when the Coronavirus 229E, a relative of the novel COVID-19, came in contact with a copper surface the virus was neutralized within minutes, compared to 72 hours to neutralize the same virus on stainless steel or glass surfaces.
Why Copper Kills Viruses
Copper ions, “…disrupt(s) the viral coat and destroy the virus DNA and RNA inside” (The Conversation, 2017). This prevents virus replication and mutations and is especially beneficial in helping reduce the mutation of drug-resistant superbugs (Morrison, 2020).
Copper surfaces resist viruses even if when the virus strain mutates.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now has over 500 copper alloy materials registered and described having “no unreasonable adverse effects” on human health (EPA, n.d.).
With strong evidence supporting copper’s health benefits, and the EPA’s recognition of copper’s anti-viral properties, it is only a matter of time before copper surfaces will be a common sight in hospitals everywhere and many other public places to prevent and reduce the incidence of hospital acquired diseases simply by employing copper surface as a passive anti-viral material.
For more informatiomn on what are some of the viruses kills read Copper Kills Viruses
EPA registration copper stewardship site. (n.d.). retrieved from
Grass, G., Rensing, C., & Solioz, M. (2011). Metallic copper as an antimicrobial surface. Applied and environmental microbiology, 77(5), 1541–1547. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.02766-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3067274/
Morrison, J. (2020). Copper’s virus-killing powers were known even to the ancients. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/copper-virus-kill-180974655/
The Conversation. (2017). Copper is great at killing superbugs- so why don’t hospitals use it? Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/copper-is-great-at-killing-superbugs-so-why-dont-hospitals-use-it-73103
Warnes, S., Little, Z., & Keevil, C. (2015). Human coronavirus 229E remains infectious on common touch surface materials. American society for microbiology. doi:10.1128/mBio.01697-15. Retrieved from https://mbio.asm.org/content/6/6/e01697-15
Author: Breanna Walter B.S Pre-Biology, MPH
Breanna Walters has always had a passion for health and science. She holds a B.S. in Pre-professional Biology and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees. Her background in biology and public health gives her a strong understanding in subjects regarding health. As part of her graduate degree, she designed and implemented a research project regarding the Body Mass Index (BMI) status of school-aged children. She has also been integral in research, proofreading and editing academic manuscripts for submission to academic journals.