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Author/s: Jason Marti

American Metal Market
Oct 2, 1998

NEW YORK -- Thanks to copper, the bacteria E. coli 0157 may not have to discourage for much longer those people who like to order their steaks and hamburgers rare. according to the Center for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR) in Britain.

E. coli 0157 is a pathogenic strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli which lives in the intestines of humans and animals. Most E. coli strains are harmless to people, but E. coli 0157 is one of the exceptions and can cause severe diarrhea and kidney damage, resulting in many deaths each year.

E. coli 0157 lives in the intestines of some healthy cattle, and during the slaughtering process the meat may get contaminated; the infection can be passed along to humans who consume the meat cooked rare or improperly.

Preliminary research by CAMR has indicated that copper surfaces can kill E. coli 0157 within a few hours, in wet or dry conditions, at temperatures between 4 degrees and 18 degrees Celsius-normal conditions of refrigerators and household kitchens.

Further research on copper surfaces is expected to be completed by the end of 1999.

The environmental and health research program of the International Copper Association is funding the research on E. coli 0157 and copper. More than $3 million a year in grants are provided by the International Copper Association to research copper's benefits for human health and the environment.

"For years, copper has been used very effectively in medicine. This research just reminds everyone how effective it is," an association spokeswoman said.

Copper has been proven to be potent against pathogens like the polio virus, opportunistic Legionella pneumophilia and bacillus subtilis.

Copper plumbing tubing helps stop the-passage of these pathogens, she said, and many hospitals use copper-based paint, brass doorknobs and finger plates to further reduce contamination.

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