Thousands of years ago, Egyptians used copper to sterilize drinking water. Ancient Romans, Aztecs and Greeks also used it for medical treatments.They used copper to sterilize wounds and drinking water.
Today, researchers believe copper's high electrical conductance interferes with the delicate balance of a microbe cell and destroys it in seconds.
In fact, some hospitals are experimenting with adding copper to high-touch surfaces such as faucets and call buttons to help kill bacteria on contact and reduce the spread of infection, according to a recent story in The Washington Post.
In particular, copper can kill a type of virus known as a coronavirus that causes respiratory problems ranging from the mild discomfort of a common cold to potentially lethal pneumonia.
How Does Copper Kill Bacteria and Viruses?
The special effects of copper can best be analyzed through the lens of both chemistry and biology. In particular, all bacteria and virus are living cells. If those cells can be disrupted and killed, the bacteria and viruses can be destroyed. When bacteria or viruses come into contact with copper, they absorb copper ions, which are essentially electrically charged particles.
These copper ions, through a process known as the oligodynamic effect, prevent a process called cell respiration in the bacteria and viruses. In basic terms, this results in the copper ions punching holes into the cell membranes (walls) of the bacteria and viruses. Once the cell membrane is damaged, the copper ions move inside the cell and destroy the DNA and RNA inside, preventing the bacteria and viruses from further multiplying.