Charleston's Ronald McDonald House is putting the results of a recent study led by a Medical University of South Carolina researcher into practice.

The 27-room boarding house for seriously ill children is being outfitted with copper surfaces, which were shown in the MUSC study to be naturally antimicrobial and to reduce the rate of hospital- acquired infections.

"Our house is a home away from home," project manager Robin Willis said. "It's not as clean as a hospital room, but we still need to try. We have loads of housekeeping services, but this is just an added layer of protection for families."

The MUSC study, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and published in October, found copper surfaces in intensive-care hospital rooms had 97 percent less bacteria than noncopper surfaces, resulting in fewer hospital-acquired infections. The copper was found to kill several types of bacteria, including a strain of E. coli and MRSA, a staph

bacteria that can lead to fatal infections.

Most of the children who stay at the Ronald McDonald House are being treated in the neighboring hospitals' intensive care units and are at-risk of contracting such infections, Willis said.

Workers at the Ronald McDonald House have installed more than $400,000 worth of copper fixtures on "high-touch" surfaces including sinks and faucets, cabinet pulls, locks, dining room tables and hand rails.

"Bacteria die on these surfaces," Willis said. "On normal railings, they just sit and grow until they're sterilized."

Most of the material was donated by the Copper Development Association, a nonprofit trade group in New York, Willis said. Installation gradually has progressed over the past two years and is expected to be finished by mid-February, she said.

The railings, installed last week, are among the final pieces to be added. Workers at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources are recycling the old metal railings to form an artificial coral reef.

Reach Renee Dudley at 937-5550 or on Twitter @renee_dudley.