Silver has been known to have antimicrobial properties
for centuries. Foe example, the the Phonecians stored water and other liquids in silver coated bottles to discourage contamination by microbes; and silver became commonly used in medical treatments, such as those of wounded soldiers in World War I, to deter microbial growth.
Now scientists have shown a new factor in relation to silver: it seems to help antibiotics work better. This is important, given that the global shortage of antibiotics is of international concern and considerable research efforts
are being invested into find new types of antibiotics.
According to a paper published
in Science Translational Medicine, researchers have explained the cellular processes by which the precious metal weakens bacteria and makes them more susceptible to antibiotics.
What the researchers found was, according to Nature
, that silver ions interfere with several cellular processes in bacteria (these included disulfide-bond formation, iron homeostasis, and metabolism). These changes make the cell membrane more permeable to things like antibiotics. It was also shown that silver ions increase reactive oxygen species, which can induce cell death via DNA damage.
The implications of the finding suggests that silver could be used to enhance the effectiveness of antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria.