Copper, germs and cancer


Here’s a bit of trivia for you – do you know why old buildings and hospitals used to use brass or copper handles and handrails? It’s because bacteria can only survive 8 hours on brass, and even less time on copper. They self-sanitize, thanks to copper!

Researchers have discovered that copper and alloys made from the metal, including brass, can prevent antibiotic resistance in bacteria from spreading. Some microbes and germs die within just 2 hours. The EPA has approved over 200 copper alloys as antimicrobial materials which can kill even the ‘superbug’ MRSA, stephylococcus aureus, blamed for many hospital infectious deaths.

Plastic and stainless steel surfaces used in hospitals and public settings, can allow bacteria to survive and spread via human contact. Even more critically, even if the bacteria die, their DNA can survive – making them more resistant to antibiotics. Copper and brass, however, can kill the bacteria and also destroy the DNA.

Apparently uneducated people of antiquity knew what they were doing. Egyptians used copper for treating wounds and sterilizing water. This is how tossing coins into a wishing well came about. People used to put silver coins into a well to keep the water fresh. Apparently copper can do the same thing.

It’s not a good thing to take copper supplements, however. Too much can be deadly or cause major physical and mental problems. Trace amounts, however are necessary in our diets. Copper plays an important part in our brain by converting dopamine into norepinephrine, which has been associated with greater alertness and better moods. Copper also helps your body produce red blood cells and hemoglobin, which aids in getting oxygen throughout your body.

New therapies are using cancer’s thirst for copper as a way to target therapy for melanoma and other BRAF gene mutation cancers.

For cancers like melanoma, where there’s a BRAF gene mutation, the cancer requires copper to promote tumor growth. In early experiments, when researchers prevented copper uptake by tumors having the BRAF gene mutation, they were able to slow down tumor growth. Wilson disease, a genetic disorder where copper builds up, currently utilizes a similar method to leach copper from the patient’s body to prevent build up in tissues, most commonly in the brain and liver. This treatment idea might also work with other cancers, such as lung or thyroid cancers. A clinical trial has been set up at Duke university to test copper reducing drugs for melanoma.

If you have a gene mutation, you might want to consider eliminating the following extremely high, copper-rich foods, like oysters, kale, sesame seeds, cashews, prunes, avocadoes. And dude, remember, I’m not a doctor,  I’m just an avid reader. You wouldn’t ask me how to repave your driveway or hand make new shoes for you, even though I could google how to do both, so be sure to check with your oncology team before making any decisions about your diet.

Interested in more copper-germ-killing info?

Here’s more from

Professor Bill Keevil, head of the microbiology group at Southampton University, said using copper on surfaces in public places and on public transport could dramatically cut the threat posed by superbugs.

Professor Keevil said: “There are a lot of bugs on our hands that we are spreading around by touching surfaces. In a public building or mass transport, surfaces cannot be cleaned for long periods of time.

Interested in reading what hospitals are thinking about in terms of copper handles, fixtures and handrails? Read here.

“Part of the process DNA from bacteria is also destroyed just as rapidly on the copper, so you cannot get gene transfer on the surface.”

Almost 43,000 people a year are infected in hospitals with antibiotic resistant bacteria MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

Antibiotic resistance usually occurs in a single bacterium that then multiplies and passes on this resistance to other bacteria around them.

In research published in the journal Molecular Genetics of Bacteria, Professor Keevil and his colleagues found that compared to stainless steel bacteria on copper surfaces bacterial DNA rapidly degraded at room temperature.

Professor Keevil added: “We live in this new world of stainless steel and plastic, but perhaps we should go back to using brass more instead.”


One thought on “Copper, germs and cancer

  1. Pingback: Who doesn’t love a good hat? | parentsof10

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