Silver as an antimicrobial

Originally written for SCG Innovation Institute.

A new study has shown that when silver ions are added to antibiotic medications, it can increase the effectiveness of the antibiotic by making it 10-1000 times more effective than the antibiotic alone.

For thousands of years silver has been used to treat wounds and promote healing through topical and oral administration.  Until recently it was not known how this worked.  Boston University research shows that the silver itself is not destroying the bacteria, but rather it is creating reactive oxygen compounds which compromise the bacteria’s protective membrane.  Once this membrane is compromised, the antibiotic can work without coming against any of the bacteria’s usual defences and kill the bacteria.

The excessive use of antibiotics around the world has led to a growing number of ‘superbugs’; bacteria which is resistant to the effects of antibiotic medication due to overexposure to the antibiotics.  With more superbugs, come more deaths from infections which are resistant to treatment.

Researchers are currently working to address the issue of silver toxicity and a change in pigmentation from ingesting silver (a condition known as argyria).  Potential solutions to this problem include finding an alternative substance which has similar antimicrobial properties without the toxicity.  If they can find a way around this issue, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved each year by combining the antimicrobial with the antibiotic to effectively treat infections.

Author: Rebecca Millar

Rebecca is a freelance PR and Communications Specialist, Author, Science Writer, and Star Trek fan with a fondness for caffeine and all things geek. When she's not getting her comms specialist on, she's usually introverting Trekkie style, studying her Masters in Astronomy, or at her local fire brigade where she volunteers as a firefighter.

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