Antimicrobial Copper Dual Head stethoscope, made by Spirit Medical Co Ltd, Taiwan, 2014
Many of the surfaces and things used in hospitals can be carriers of bacteria and viruses. Some of these can be harmful to our health. Studies continue to investigate whether stethoscopes may transfer harmful bacteria around healthcare settings. Stethoscopes with copper parts such as the chest and ear-pieces have been found to carry less bacteria than those made from other metals. Copper naturally kills some bacteria and viruses by breaking down their cell walls in a process called contact killing.
This stethoscope was displayed in the Science Museum’s ‘Superbugs: The Fight for Our Lives’ which explored how society is responding to the enormous challenge of antibiotic resistance. Using different materials is just one avenue of research of preventing bacterial infections in healthcare settings and thus reducing the need to use antibiotics.