Infection is a serious problem in hospitals, often leading to death in what would otherwise be simple, safe procedures. And as bacteria build up resistance to antibiotics, the problem becomes harder to fight.
But a new discovery could help stop the spread of bacteria, and its antibiotic resistance. Apparently, bacteria dies on brass far more quickly than on stainless steel or plastic, the most common materials for surfaces and door handles in hospitals.
Bacteria can live on a stainless steel surfaces for weeks, but die on brass within minutes, according to Professor Bill Keevil, head of the microbiology group at Southampton University as interviewed by the Telegraph.
And, he said, even after bacteria dies, the DNA that gives them resistance to antibiotics can be passed on to the next bacteria on that surface, unless that surface is brass, which breaks down the DNA.
Brass door handles used to be quite common, but stainless steel is now the favorite, largely because it’s cheaper. But it would likely be worth it for hospitals to invest in brass for door handles and other commonly touched surfaces considering the money they’d save fighting off infections and the lawsuits they can cause.
Aside from the day-to-day problems of infections spreading, the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, or superbugs, has serious implications. Doctors and scientists are in a constant race to develop new treatments more quickly than bacteria can adapt, and killing the mutated DNA with brass would be a major advantage in the fight.
“We live in this new world of stainless steel and plastic,” the Telegraph quoted Keevil as saying, “but perhaps we should go back to using brass more instead.”