Copper is considered safe to humans, as demonstrated by the
widespread and prolonged use by women of copper intrauterine
devices (IUDs). Very low risk of adverse skin reactions is
associated with copper. Animal testing described above has
demonstrated that copper fabrics do not possess
skin-sensitizing properties. None of the 50 individuals who
used socks containing copper-impregnated fibers reported any
negative effects caused by the socks.
in contrast to the low sensitivity of human tissue to copper,
microorganisms are extremely susceptible to copper. Toxicity
occurs through the displacement of essential metals from their
native binding sites, from interference with oxidative
phosphorylation and osmotic balance, and from alterations in
the conformational structure of nucleic acids, membranes and
Introducing copper into fabrics, latex, or other polymers may
have significant ramifications. One example is the reduction
of nosocomial infections in hospitals. Healthcare-associated
(nosocomial) infection ranks fourth among causes of death in
the U.S., behind heart disease, cancer, and stroke. It has been
demonstrated that sheets in direct contact with a patient’s
skin and his bacterial flora are an important source of infection.
Therefore, use of self-sterilizing pajamas, sheets, pillow covers,
and robes in a hospital setting may reduce nosocomial infections.
Use of gloves with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties
by hospital personnel may also aid in reducing transmission
of infectious microbes and viruses and provide increased
protection to hospital personnel.
Another possible use of copper fabrics is related to allergies
and asthma. It is estimated that 15% of the general population
suffer from allergic disorders, of which allergic rhinitis is
the most common. Dust mites are an important source of allergen
for perennial rhinitis and asthmatic attacks. Thus, elimination
of house dust mites in mattresses, quilts, carpets, and pillows
would improve the quality of life of those suffering from dust
Another potential use of copper-impregnated fabrics is related
to foot ulcerations, a common complication of type 2 diabetes
individuals worldwide. In many cases these ulcerations can
become severe due to cuts/bruises that heal slowly and become
infected. An infection that does not heal can cause the
tissue to die (gangrene). Use of socks containing copper-impregnated fibers by diabetics may significantly reduce
the risk of foot infection.
Use of copper-impregnated socks by the wider population may
be beneficial in more benign conditions. About 15–20%
of the population suffers from tinea pedis. This fungal infection
can cause discomfort, may be resistant to treatment, and may
spread to other parts of the body or to other people. We found
that copper-impregnated socks may be useful in preventing and
treating tinea pedis.
An important potential application of copper-impregnated materials
is the reduction of bacterial and viral transmission during
transfusion of blood or blood-related products. A growing number
of viral, bacterial, and protozoa pathogens have been identified
in blood products, and new pathogens are regularly identified
as being present. In parts of the world where screening tests
are too expensive to be performed regularly, a cheap, rapid
virus inactivation filter would be extremely helpful. Accordingly,
a filter that can inactivate a broad spectrum of viruses in
blood products would be very valuable.
Preliminary results showing neutralization of HIV-1 and WNV
infectivity when viruses were passed through our copper containing
syringes indicate the possibility of producing a generic
anti-viral filter. However, it must first be established that
these filters do not damage filtered plasma and other blood
components and do not harm individuals infused with these
blood products. We are currently conducting these studies.
Transmission of HIV during lactation accounts for one-third
to one-half of all HIV mother-infant transmissions. Breast milk
may be passed through a copper fiber-containing filter, reducing
HIV infectivity. If there is no degradation of the milk’s
essential nutrients, the filtered milk may be fed to infants,
thereby reducing the risk of HIV transmission. Admittedly,
implementing such measures may be difficult because of
sociological factors existing in developing countries.
However, HIV-1, as well as other viruses, will be with us for
many years and methods to reduce their impact must be
In conclusion, our study demonstrates potential uses of copper
in new applications that address medical concerns of the greatest
importance. Implementation of even a few of the possible
applications of this novel technology may have a major effect
on our lives.