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Plagued by fungus? Bacteria? Try copper socks

By Manuel Farias – Sat Nov 15, 3:01 am ET

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Copper socks? Copper towels? How about copper subway poles? These are only a few of the ways Chile, the world's biggest copper producer, is utilizing the red metal which is more commonly found in the construction and auto sectors.

Used since ancient times to make tools, weapons and plumbing systems, Chilean innovators are experimenting with ways to exploit copper's bacteria- and fungus-fighting characteristics.

"Public transport systems, where germs can be transmitted and there are large numbers of people, are a potential market for applications for surface-metal copper," said Jurgen Leibbrandt, head of market development for the Chilean state copper giant Codelco.

"In clothes there is another venue ... where it has excellent anti-fungus qualities," he said.
Scientists say the power of copper to fight germs lies in the fact that copper ions separate on contact with bacteria and cause irreversible damage to the bacteria's cells.
Codelco is already working with the private sector to market socks, towels, pillow cases and underwear sewn with copper fibresthat fight fungi and even help combat acne.
And the private sector is in a drive to join Chile's leading export, copper, with another major exporter, the salmon industry, to cut disease in fish stocks.
Chile is the world's second largest salmon producer after Norway, but the industry has high costs because of expensive solutions to controlling infections.
"Joining these two industries to finding a solution that is economically viable is certainly viable," said Leibbrandt.

One Chilean entrepreneur, Joaquin Ruiz, has invented copper sponge filters to purify water on salmon farms, eliminating disease and fungi and reducing the large amounts of costly antibiotics currently employed to do the same job.

"That means huge savings. Instead of using large quantities of antibiotics and germ killing agents, with this you are just putting up a simple sanitary barrier," Ruiz, the developer of the Metal Foam sponges, told Reuters.

Codelco is experimenting with bacteria-repellent cages for the industry.

Investigators are also looking into where they can use the metal to reduce levels of infection in hospitals. They have found the metal helps to kill Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium responsible for difficult-to-treat infections in humans.

"If you prevent one MRSA infection, you save $21,000, so your return on investment will be very very short, perhaps one patient," said Michael Schmidt, of the University of South Carolina medical school.

"So this is going to be a fairly efficient and inexpensive solution to combat infections."

Some hospitals in the United States are testing copper as a germ-resistant surface material in place of stainless steel. A British study several years ago showed that drug-resistant staph germs survived for three days on stainless steel surfaces but were not detectable on copper surfaces after 90 minutes.
(Reporting by Manuel Farias; writing by Pav Jordan; editing by Jim Marshall)

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Robber threatens to complain after finding no cash

Fri Nov 14, 5:25 pm ET
YORK, Pa. – Police say a central Pennsylvania man tried to rob a bank — but tellers' empty cash drawers thwarted his attempt. Springettsbury Township Police Lt. Scott Laird said the tellers were waiting for their cash drawers to be filled when a man entered a Susquehanna Bank branch Thursday morning and demanded money. The first teller fainted and the next two showed him their empty cash drawers.
Laird says the robber then threatened to file a complaint with bank management before leaving.
A customer at the drive-through called 911. A 48-year-old man was arrested about 10 blocks away and was held in the York County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail. He was charged with criminal attempt to commit robbery.

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