ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Patients at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital will soon be wearing and sleeping on something from the periodic table.

Sentara Healthcare did the world's largest clinical trial of using copper to fight infections that come from a stay in the hospital. A study at another Sentara facility found linens infused with copper dramatically reduce the number of infections patients acquire in the hospital.

“It really feels very similar in terms of softness and quality of the fabric,” said Andrea Alvarez, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital infection preventionist.

Alvarez says the salmon-tinted linens have the power to prevent infections.

“Copper has intrinsic properties that allow it to kill bacteria,” Alvarez explained.

The bed sheets, blankets, gowns, and bath towels are infused with copper oxide.

“It's thought maybe it disrupts bacterial cell walls. It may have effect on fluid flow in and out of the cell,” said Dr. Mike Ashby, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital vice president of medical affairs. “We’re not exactly sure how it works, but it does seem to kill bacteria.”

Sentara has spent more than a year studying how copper-infused linens and hard surfaces could reduce healthcare-associated infections.

“The last thing you want is somebody to come into your hospital and leave with an infection they didn't come in with. So, our goal is to keep people safe,” Ashby explained.

The study found a 78 percent overall reduction in bacterial infections.

“We're most concerned about some of the multiple drug resistant organisms like Clostridium difficile. It's something that causes diarrhea that can be a bad infection,” said Ashby.

In 2015, 15 patients acquired that infection while at Martha Jefferson. That’s a rate of less than half of one percent per 1,000 patient days.

“We see any case as something of concern that we would want to try to prevent,” Alvarez said.

Nurses will make all inpatient beds with the self-sanitizing sheets first, followed by copper-infused bedside tables and handrails later this year.

“We see that as a way to reduce the burden of bacteria in the hospital environment and then reduce the potential to spread to other patients,” Alvarez said.

Sentara Martha Jefferson and Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital will begin using copper-infused linens next month.

Patients with an allergy to copper will be given regular sheets.