Microbe busters: Norfolk company helps Sentara fight infections

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Patients at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center will be seeing copper this year, thanks in part to a company with Southside roots.

Based on a recent clinical trial at Norfolk’s Sentara Leigh Hospital, Sentara Williamsburg will begin using anti-microbial copper-infused sheets, gowns, bed handrails and bedside tables, Sentara said in a release. The copper-infused linens come in tan and salmon colors.

The move comes in a bid to use copper’s infection-fighting properties as a tool against healthcare associated infections, or, HAIs. HAIs are bacterial, viral, fungal or other infections that patients get while being treated for something else in hospitals and health-care facilities, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. An estimated one in 25 patients develop infections related to hospital care, leading to tens of thousands of deaths and an annual cost to the U.S. health care system of billions of dollars, ODPHP says on its website.

“I really feel like this is the way of the future,” Donna Wilmoth, Sentara’s vice president of patient care services and chief nurse executive, said in a phone interview.

The rollout is coming to fruition with the help of technology developed by two in-state businesses.

The copper-treated tables and bedrails are manufactured by Norfolk-based EOS Surfaces LLC. They are infused with copper oxide, according to CEO Ken Trinder. The copper oxide ions recognize moisture, which is how they attack and destroy microbes, he said.

Cupron Inc., a Richmond-based biotech firm, developed the antimicrobial medical textiles.

“It was a partnership,” Trinder added.

microbe busters
Copper-infused products will local ties are being rolled out by Sentara as a tool for fighting in-hospital infections. (Courtesy Sentara)

A recent study published in The American Journal of Infection Control found that using copper-infused textiles in a long-term care hospital ward with patients who were on ventilators was tied to a “significant reduction” in HAI indicators, such as antibiotic use. The study was supported by Cupron, with one of its employees cited as a researcher.

Sentara’s 10-month clinical trial at Leigh Hospital similarly reported a reduction in HAIs from using copper products. Specifically, researchers found that using copper-infused hard surfaces and bed linens led to an 83-percent decline in Clostridium difficile (known as “C. diff”) and a 78-percent decrease in multidrug- resistant organisms, such as C. diff, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE).

Results of a second clinical trial of copper products at three Sentara hospitals are expected later this year, the release said; all twelve Sentara hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina are switching to copper-treated products.

“We’re just really excited to be able to bring it to the Williamsburg area,” Wilmoth said.

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Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, TIME.com, nationalgeographic.com and Talking Points Memo. Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, TIME.com, nationalgeographic.com and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.