Silver’s antibacterial properties have been known for centuries – we’ve even written about it before. But despite silver’s effectiveness, it fell out of use with the advent of antibiotics and modern medicine. However, because of their overuse, antibiotics have decreased in effectiveness over time – giving rise to antibiotic resistant strains of disease.
Luckily, researchers from Boston University have found that adding silver ions to antibiotics can increase the effectiveness of the drug by up to 1,000 times. This discovery was extension of another discovery: how silver is able to kill bacteria in the first place. Silver ions interfere with several cellular processes in bacteria. This causes the increased production of reactive oxygen – which kills the bacteria. Another side effect is that the bacteria’s cell membrane becomes more permeable. This allows antibiotics to penetrate the bacteria’s defenses much more easily.
Although silver ion antibiotics are quite promising, they still present a risk of toxicity. But, now that scientists have a better understanding of the mechanism that gives silver ions their antibacterial powers, they are better equipped to find alternative compounds that mimic the antibacterial action of silver ions without the risk of toxicity.