Strict adherence to protocols for the decontamination of surfaces and hands are a pivotal to functioning hospital hygiene. However, when standard hygiene measures fail inadvertently, additional contamination barriers could provide added protection of patients. Many recent studies have documented that metallic copper possesses antimicrobial properties. Copper- based materials could thus be employed as an added means of a multi-barrier strategy to combat bacterial contamination of surfaces with pathogenic microorganisms. Based on the interdisciplinarity of the topic – microbiologists as well as material scientists contribute to the field – it is of special importance to summarize and put into perspective the various findings. It is the goal of this contribution to provide an interdisciplinary account of the state of basic research as well as field-studies on antimicrobial copper. Progress in the elucidation of the mechanism by which metallic copper inactivates germs, the so called 'contact killing' process, will be discussed. Also considered will be aspects of material properties and engineering. In addition, the results of recent studies with copper surfaces in hospitals in different countries will be presented and evaluated. The question will be discussed to what extent copper could contribute to hospital hygiene and eventually the prevention of hospital acquired infections. Moreover, bacterial contamination of surfaces is a difficult problem on the ISS. Due to the fact that the human immune system is weakened and bacterial resistance and toxicity are increased in microgravity, decontamination of touch surfaces becomes highly important in space. Insights in surface-microbe interactions in microgravity will be given and the potential use of copper surfaces on the ISS will be explained.