A children's burn unit in Chile is using a newly developed copper-based material in its hospital gowns that limits the spread of bacteria, fungi and viruses, creating a safer environment for patients and doctors. Elly Park reports.
Eight-year-old Andrea is visiting Coaniquem, a children's burn unit in Santiago, Chile, to have his wounds treated. While cleanliness is crucial in hospital environments, for Andrea and his parents it's of little concern. He's one of the first patients treated by doctors wearing new copper-infused gowns that kill germs, says Coaniquem's Doctor, Jorge Rojas Zegers. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) JORGE ROJAS ZEGERS, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE COANIQUEM, THE CORPORATIION TO HELP BURNED CHILDREN, SAYING: "This will benefit the treatment as far as having an environment with less contamination; to stop bacteria and fungi from hurting people." The copper-based fabric called InCopper is said to kill more than 90 percent of all bacteria, fungi and viruses that touch its surface. Doctor Luis Amestica, of the fabric's co-developers Copper Andino, explains why. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) LUIS AMESTICA, COPPER ANDINO RESEARCHER AND GENERAL MANAGER, SAYING: "When bacteria come into contact with copper, the copper is sending out ions and these copper ions are what penetrate the cell walls. It changes the metabolic processes in the bacteria, killing them." Swiss product inspection firm SGS tested InCopper and verified that 99 percent of all microorganisms died when in contact with the material. This will help the recovery of Andrea and other patients around the world. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) JORGE ROJAS ZEGERS, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE COANIQUEM, THE CORPORATIION TO HELP BURNED CHILDREN, SAYING: "This will be a huge step. Safer environments, fewer intra-hospital infections and a better chance of a quick recovery for burn victims." Copper Andino plans to use the technology in everyday products such as bandages and washcloths. By extending the germ-free zone from hospital beds to people's homes the firm hopes to help improve the health and speed up the recovery time of thousands of patients.