“Life-like” assessment of antimicrobial surfaces by a new touch transfer assay displays strong superiority of a copper alloy compared to silver containing surfaces

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Abstract

Transmission of bacteria from inanimate surfaces in healthcare associated environments is an important source of hospital acquired infections. A number of commercially available medical devices promise to fulfill antibacterial activity to reduce environmental contamination. In this study we developed a touch transfer assay modeling fingerprint transmission to investigate the antibacterial activity of surfaces, with confirmed antibacterial activity by a modified ISO 22196 (JIS Z 2801) assay to test such surfaces under more realistic conditions. Bacteria were taken up from a dry standardized primary contaminated surface (PCS) with disinfected fingers or fingers covered with sterile and moistened cotton gloves. Subsequently, bacteria were transferred by pressing on secondary contaminated surfaces (SCS) with or without potential antibacterial activity and the relative reduction rate was determined after 24 h. A stable transmission rate between PCS and SCS was observed using moistened sterile gloves. A copper containing alloy displayed at least a tenfold reduction of the bacterial load consistently reaching less than 2.5 cfu/cm2. In contrast, no significant reduction of bacterial contamination by silver containing surfaces and matured pure silver was observed in the touch transfer assay. With the touch transfer assay we successfully established a new reproducible method modeling cross contamination. Using the new method we were able to demonstrate that several surfaces with confirmed antimicrobial activity in a modified ISO 22196 (JIS Z 2801) assay lacked effectiveness under defined ambient conditions. This data indicate that liquid based assays like the ISO 22196 should be critically reviewed before claiming antibacterial activity for surfaces in the setting of contamination of dry surfaces by contact to the human skin. We suggest the newly developed touch transfer assay as a new additional tool for the assessment of potential antimicrobial surfaces prior utilization in hospital environments.

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Knobloch, J. K. M., Tofern, S., Kunz, W., Schütze, S., Riecke, M., Solbach, W., & Wuske, T. (2017). “Life-like” assessment of antimicrobial surfaces by a new touch transfer assay displays strong superiority of a copper alloy compared to silver containing surfaces. PLoS ONE, 12(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187442

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