Can Copper Become an Antiobiotic?

We can be extemely happy that we are living at a time like this. 200 years ago, people died because of blood poisoning or pneumonia. Nowadays, there is more medicine available than ever before. However, we have gotten us in trouble again. Through our extensive use of antibiotics and through nutrition which is polluted with antiobiotics, we have built up a resistance. This can possible lead to the point that  pneumonia can become a common cause for death again. Therefore new antibiotics have to be developed to prevent such incidents. One possibility may offer copper.

To comprehend why copper might help us out of this pity, we have to take a closer look at the disease pattern of pneumonia. The disease starts when a bacterial called Streptococcus pneumoniae enters the nostril. It travels down into the lungs. As soon as they arrive in the lungs, they are trying to enter so-called macrophages, but the macrophages will not let them enter that easily. They are trying everything to prevent that. Now the copper will come into play. Our body contains copper and a few atoms of copper decide about infection or health in this scenario.


Bacteria needs iron, calcium and manganese to survive, but they do not want copper. This is the reason why macrophages deliver them to a part where bacterias are starving because of the lack of neccessary metals. Instead, they are bombarded with copper. This process is called mismetalization and it is deadly for bacterias.

For Michael Johnsohn, an immunbiologist from University of Arizona, copper toxicity in bacteria is very good news. This whole process offers new hints and ideas how to possibly fight bacterias in the future when the mankind might be resistent against antibiotics. 

Using copper as an antibacterial is not that mindblowing nevertheless. People are using copper as an antibacterial for storing food in copper pots, for example. Therefore, it makes sense to consider copper as a possible medicine. However, Johnsohn and his collegues will have to run through many more studies to make definitely sure that copper is the key. In times of increasing resistance against antibiotics, we can only wish that he is successful and mankind has another way to defend themselves.


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Yannick Scheve.//SMC Editor