Copper socks helped Chilean miners' foot fungus

January 25, 2012

The August 2010 Chilean mine collapse that trapped 33 miners underground for 69 days made more news last week for a less dramatic but, for some, still significant reason: a potentially improved treatment for fungal foot infections.

Richmond, Va. - The August 2010 Chilean mine collapse that trapped 33 miners underground for 69 days made more news last week for a less dramatic but, for some, still significant reason: a potentially improved treatment for fungal foot infections.

MSNBC.com reports that when the miners began experiencing skin problems in their feet, Cupron Inc., a Richmond-based firm that develops and manufactures skin treatment technology, donated socks made of fibers impregnated with copper oxide, a known antibacterial and antifungal agent.

Citing a study in the January issue of Archives of Dermatology, MSNBC.com reports that many miners later said their skin problems completely resolved within a week of wearing the socks.

According to the study, three of the rescued miners had athlete’s foot, seven had dry skin on the soles of their feet, two had fungal infections on their skin, three had itchy blisters on their hands and feet, and one had nail fungus.

“Overall, their skin condition, especially on their feet  ... was extremely good despite 69 days of exposure to an environment that promoted the growth of skin-damaging microbes,” the researchers wrote in their report.

Investigators wrote that 19 of the rescued miners completed a questionnaire regarding their experience with the Cupron socks and responded that they experienced a significant reduction in discomfort, dry skin, irritation and scaling after wearing the socks.

Researchers say the socks may be useful in preventing athlete’s foot, a condition suffered by an estimated 90 percent of miners. The socks also may benefit workers in other professions - such as law enforcement, firefighting and the military - where physical tasks are performed in harsh environments.

MSNBC.com notes that more research is needed to assess the true effectiveness of the Cupron socks in treating fungal infections, and further notes that one of the study researchers is employed by Cupron.

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