This study provides information on the antibacterial effect of copper against the water-borne pathogens Salmonella Typhi, Salmonella Typhimurium and Vibrio cholerae.
Suspensions of each pathogen were kept in water within a traditional copper vessel at 30°C for 24 h. Samples were withdrawn, diluted and plated onto suitable growth media. Conventional enumeration of healthy (uninjured) bacteria was carried out using standard aerobic incubation conditions. Additionally, reactive oxygen species-neutralised (ROS-n) conditions were achieved by adding the peroxide scavenger sodium pyruvate to the medium with anaerobic incubation, to enumerate uninjured (ROS-insensitive) and injured (ROS-sensitive) bacteria. Differences between log-transformed means of conventional (aerobic) and ROS-n counts were statistically evaluated using t tests.
Overall, all three pathogens were inactivated by storage in copper vessels for 24 h. However, for shorter-term incubation (4-12 h), higher counts were observed under ROS-n conditions than under aerobic conditions, which demonstrate the presence of substantial numbers of sub-lethally injured cells prior to their complete inactivation.
The present study has for the first time confirmed that these bacterial pathogens are inactivated by storage in a copper vessel within 24 h. However, it has also demonstrated that it is necessary to account for short-term sub-lethal injury, manifest as ROS-sensitivity, in order to more fully understand the process. This has important practical implications in terms of the time required to store water within a copper vessel to completely inactivate these bacteria and thereby remove the risk of water-borne disease transmission by this route.