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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Mar;89(6):1963-70. doi: 10.1007/s00253-010-2980-x. Epub 2010 Nov 18.

Metallic copper corrosion rates, moisture content, and growth medium influence survival of copper ion-resistant bacteria.

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Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


The rapid killing of various bacteria in contact with metallic copper is thought to be influenced by the influx of copper ions into the cells, but the exact mechanism is not fully understood. This study showed that the kinetics of contact killing of copper surfaces depended greatly on the amount of moisture present, copper content of alloys, type of medium used, and type of bacteria. We examined antibiotic- and copper ion-resistant strains of Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecium isolated from pig farms following the use of copper sulfate as feed supplement. The results showed rapid killing of both copper ion-resistant E. coli and E. faecium strains when samples in rich medium were spread in a thin, moist layer on copper alloys with 85% or greater copper content. E. coli strains were rapidly killed under dry conditions, while E. faecium strains were less affected. Electroplated copper surface corrosion rates were determined from electrochemical polarization tests using the Stern-Geary method and revealed decreased corrosion rates with benzotriazole and thermal oxide coating. Copper ion-resistant E. coli and E. faecium cells suspended in 0.8% NaCl showed prolonged survival rates on electroplated copper surfaces with benzotriazole coating and thermal oxide coating compared to surfaces without anti-corrosion treatment. Control of surface corrosion affected the level of copper ion influx into bacterial cells, which contributed directly to bacterial killing.

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