Copper possesses a unique and natural ability to destroy harmful bacteria and other microbes. Studies worldwide have shown that when a copper alloy is used on regularly touched surfaces, there is up to a 90% reduction in live bacteria and 58% reduction in infection rates.
But how exactly does this bacteria-reducing phenomenon work?
It's called the oligodynamic effect: the toxic ramifications of metal ions, such as those of copper, silver, and bronze, on living cells, algae, spores, molds, viruses, fungi, and eukaryotic and prokaryotic microorganisms—even in relatively low concentrations.
Since copper's anti-bacterial mechanism is complex, scientists still haven’t figured out exactly how it works, but science suggests copper attacks bacteria in several stages:
- First, positively charged copper ions attract negativity charged harmful bacteria.
- Copper ions then rupture the bacteria’s cell wall.
- Copper stops the bacteria from continuing vital biochemical reactions, which kills the cell and inhibits its duplication.
This may sound pretty simple, but we’ll break it down even further for you.
How Does Copper Rupture Bacteria’s Cell Wall To Kill It?
Every single outer wall of a cell has an electrical microcurrent. Since there is a voltage difference between the inside and outside of the cell, it’s suggested that copper short-circuits the cell membrane, which weakens it, and creates holes. Another suggestion is that copper pulls electrons from the membrane of the bacteria’s cell wall lipids. The more electrons yanked from the atoms comprising the cell wall, the weaker it becomes, eventually breaking the cell's membrane.
How Does Copper Damage The Cell Once It Ruptures the Walls?
A cell's main defense is the cellular wall. Once broken, it can no longer stop copper ions from entering. Copper then obstructs its metabolism, by binding to enzymes that facilitate important biochemical reactions. The cell can no longer breathe, eat, digest, or create energy, causing it to die. Copper also destroys the DNA and RNA within the cell, destroying its ability to reproduce and transfer genes. This inhibits resistant bacteria from passing the ability to withstand copper's effects onto other bacteria, which could create resistant strands.
How Does Copper Work so Effectively?
Several other metals and alloys also demonstrate the ability to kill harmful bacteria, but take a much longer time to do so than copper. A study by Gregor Grass, an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and cited in an article by the American Society for Microbiology, found that copper's bacteria-killing mechanism decimates microbial populations within minutes.
“When microbes were exposed to copper surfaces, we observed contact killing to take place at the rate of tens to hundreds of millions of bacterial cells within minutes,” stated Grass. “This means that usually no live microorganisms can be recovered from copper surfaces after exposure.”
Within 30 minutes of working, copper had destroyed 99.99% of all bad bacteria and microbes.
Experts believe copper works quickly and effectively due to the multi-targeted nature of its properties. Copper can bind to any enzyme that helps the cell live, so it can stop vital activities, from transporting and digesting nutrients, to repairing a damaged cell wall.
Some materials are treated with chemicals to improve antibacterial effects. After a period of time, however, these wear off, and the material will no longer possess such characteristics. Since copper is naturally antibacterial, its powers are long-lasting, and don't fade away.
Thanks to copper's extraordinary and effective antibacterial capabilities, the PangeaBed copper mattress therefore provides our customers with a healthier and cleaner sleep.