The following content is sponsored by Trilogy Metals.
Antimicrobial Copper: The Germ-fighting Metal
Copper has a wide range of uses in electronics, infrastructure, and energy technologies. The red metal is virtually everywhere, from the wires in our devices to the buildings we live in.
However, copper’s medicinal applications, which go back thousands of years, aren’t as widespread in the modern world.
In this infographic from our sponsor Trilogy Metals, we explore copper’s ability to fight bacteria and its expanding role in modern healthcare.
Dr. Copper: How Copper Fights Germs
Copper is naturally antimicrobial, and ancient civilizations recognized this property. The Egyptian Smith Papyrus recorded copper’s first medical use thousands of years ago. Since then, several generations have passed down their knowledge about copper’s medicinal uses.
But how does copper kill germs?
According to the Copper Development Association, copper surfaces affect bacteria in a series of sequential steps:
#1: Breaching the Cell
Every bacterium’s outer cell membrane is characterized by an electrical micro-current, known as the “transmembrane potential”. It is suspected that when a bacterium is exposed to a copper surface, it leads to a short-circuiting of the current in the cell membrane, which weakens the membrane and creates holes.
Localized oxidation is another mechanism by which copper breaches bacterial cells. This occurs when a copper ion comes into contact with a protein or fatty acid from the bacterium’s cell membrane in the presence of oxygen, which causes oxidative damage to the cell membrane.